Oil Drillers Strike World's Deepest Dinosaur

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The fossil came from sandstone sediments left by prehistoric rivers that once meandered through dry plains.

"At that time there was no North Sea," Hurum said. "There was a semi-desert between Norway and Greenland, so it was a dry, arid climate like you see in Morocco today."

The researcher says most of the oil fields in the North Sea are in marine sediments rather than in sandstones that were formed on land, and that other deep drilling has yielded fragments of prehistoric sea creatures.

Marine Reptiles

"We got several drill cores which had fossils of marine reptiles," Hurum added. "Finding a terrestrial animal is much more rare—its like looking for a needle in ten haystacks."

Being Norway's sole dino researcher, he appropriately played a hand in uncovering the nation's only known dinosaur.

The country's distinct lack of dinosaur remains is attributed to the Ice Age, which obliterated rock formations that might have harbored these fossils.

"Most of the rocks in Norway are twice as old as the oldest dinosaur or much older," Hurum said. "All the young rocks were removed and eroded away by the glaciers."

He says mainland Norway has a fine fossil record in rocks between 540 and 400 million years old, including marine trilobites and primitive, squid-like species.

"The only way for us to find a dinosaur is [drilling] in the North Sea," Hurum added.

Nystuen, co-finder of the fossil and a geologist at the University of Oslo, says North Sea oil exploration may well add to Norway's dinosaur collection.

"But," he admitted, "they will be very hard to find and extremely expensive to recover from their very deep tombs."

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