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B.C.’s new official fossil emblem enriches cultural identity

October 26, 2023 at 4:26 pm  BC, News, Politics, Provincial

The elasmosaur is now British Columbia’s official fossil emblem.

The adoption of a provincial fossil in the Provincial Symbols and Honours Act elevates the importance of the presence of fossils in the province and enriches B.C.’s cultural identity.

“British Columbia has a rich and diverse variety of fossils and fossil deposits that are a historical record of the evolution and development of life on Earth,” said Lana Popham, Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport. “I am excited the elasmosaur fossil has been declared an official emblem of the province. This designation will help raise awareness that B.C. has a fossil heritage worthy of celebration and stewardship.”

The elasmosaur is a large marine reptile that lived along the coast of B.C. This prehistoric animal dates back to the Cretaceous period, approximately 80 million years ago.

In 2018, the elasmosaur was selected to become the provincial fossil emblem through a public vote held by the Province.

“Fossils are a glimpse into B.C.’s remarkable heritage and history,” said Ronna-Rae Leonard, MLA for Courtenay-Comox, who brought forward the bill to recognize the elasmosaur as B.C.’s fossil emblem. “The elasmosaur fossil has become a symbol of the region since its discovery. Now, with this fossil being designated as an official emblem of B.C., it is a point of provincial pride for all British Columbians.”

The first elasmosaur fossil was discovered in 1988, along the Puntledge River on Vancouver Island, by Mike Trask and his daughter Heather. This discovery marked the first fossil of its kind found west of the Canadian Rockies. Since then, another elasmosaur was found in Comox valley by Pat Trask in 2020. Both elasmosaurs are on display at the Courtenay and District Museum and Paleontology Centre.

“The proclamation of a new fossil emblem for B.C. recognizes the significance this 80-million-year-old fossil holds in representing British Columbia’s diverse natural history,” said Deborah Griffiths, executive director of the Courtenay and District Museum and Paleontology Centre. “The elasmosaur fossil is a remarkable discovery from B.C.’s prehistoric past and now, as the official provincial fossil, will help spark further interest in B.C.’s ancient ecosystems, while supporting palaeontological work, STEAM education and tourism in this province.”

Quick Facts:

  • Other provincial emblems include Pacific dogwood (provincial flower), stellar’s jay (provincial bird), spirit bear (provincial mammal), Pacific salmon (provincial fish), jade (mineral emblem) and western red cedar (provincial tree). 
  • The public poll for the fossil emblem was posted on Engage BC from Aug. 15 until Nov. 23, 2018. Approximately 5,000 votes were cast. Out of seven candidates, the elasmosaurid marine reptile received 48% of the votes.

Learn More:

The Courtenay and District Museum and Paleontology Centre: https://www.courtenaymuseum.ca/fossils-dinosaurs/the-elasmosaur-find/

Designation of a provincial fossil, B.C. government: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/industry/natural-resource-use/fossil-management/designating-a-provincial-fossil

For more information about B.C. legislation, visit: https://workingforyou.gov.bc.ca/legislation

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