Beachgoers become guardians of fossils

Jana Tocheva and Andrea Galvez show Elasmosaurus vertebra fossils, which were found on a beach in Algarrobo, Chile, on June 16.

SANTIAGO (Reuters) — While strolling along Los Tubos beach on the central Chilean coast, a group of neighbors found strange remains, which turned out to be fossils of an ancient marine reptile that lived in the surrounding sea millions of years ago.

Several fossils belonging to the long-necked sea creature from the Upper Cretaceous period, known as Elasmosaurus, were found by Andrea Galvez and other residents of the town of Algarrobo, some 95 kilometers east of Santiago, the country’s capital.

Galvez, a physical education teacher, said she usually collects plastic she finds along the beach, but noticed something strange one day after getting off her paddle board.

“I saw some strange rocks, one in particular that was different from all the others,” Galvez said. She later took the piece to a local museum.

The loss of sand from the beach due to erosion has allowed some fossil remains, protected for millions of years, to surface.

Jana Toscheva, another local, found a stone weighing more than 50 kilograms with bones of the extinct reptile.

Toscheva said she goes out nearly every day but rarely sees anything noteworthy.

“Then I feel that it fell, almost from the sky, to tell me: please save me, do something for me,” Toscehva said. “I was practically shivering, very nervous.”

She added that she was happy because of the positive impact the fossil could have for the area.

The curator of the Natural History Museum, Jose Luis Brito, said the women had discovered more fossils than any of the paleontologists who have visited the site over the years.

“It’s incredible … They have become the guardians of the fossil beach of Algarrobo,” he said.