Pembina Paleontology has announced its first major fossil discovery.
The research team has discovered a new fossil paleoctopus from Southern Manitoba.
“The excitement began when I realized that the fossil undoubtedly belonged to the paleoctopod genus Enchoteuthis,” exclaimed Anita Hatcher, the lead author of the research paper and paleontologist at Pembina Paleontology. “It had never been documented, in-situ, in Manitoba before, making it a first!”
The discovery was recently published in the Proceedings of the 29th Canadian Paleontology Conference. Paleontologist and coauthor, Joseph Hatcher, presented the research paper at the conference. He says this was an exciting discovery, noting all of the similar fossils in this area have historically been lumped together as squid.
"That squid, or in this case, octopus, just kept going and going...the preservation is fairly poor, but the size was immense, so we kept digging. Throughout 2021, we excavated and were just ecstatic with the size of it. It was through the winter as we started to clean it and prepare it, it had a lot of different features to it than the squid we were traditionally familiar with, and that's where we reached out to some peers and colleagues and they came back to us saying, 'you've got something different. This is an octopus, it's a different type of cephalapod of the late cretaceous.'
Hatcher describes the structure of the paleoctopus.
The discovery of the paleoctopus, referred to as the Kraken of Manitoba's cretaceous seas, shows paleoctopods were the major predators during the late stages of Manitoba’s cretaceous seaway, noted Hatcher, adding this specimen is important in terms of paleoecology as it, combined with other known specimens, are indicative of at least a regional megafaunal turnover from the marine reptiles to large Octopods.
"When we look at these fossils in the rock layers in which they are found, we start to put together an image of what we call biostratigraphy and we can learn in these zones, there are certain dominant creatures. So, there's an area where there's mostly the marine reptiles like big Bruce and the plesiosaur, and then there's an area above that in the rocks that's largely missing for big megafauna. It's full of fish but it's like the marine reptiles just disappeared," explained Hatcher. "There's lots of evidence of intense volcanism in the late cretaceous of Manitoba, those bentonite layers, and that's from the Elkhorn Mountains of Montana - talk about a major volcanic event, no wonder those reptiles moved out because they had lungs like you and me. If they're going to surface to breath air that's full of ash, no wonder they moved. And it seemed like there were no big predators left, and now we know that there were. They just weren't the big vertebrates that we're familiar with."