Spitsbergen Mesozoic Research Group
The Mesozoic Era, the «Age of reptiles», lasted from 252 to 66 million years ago and included the time periods Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous. The earliest dinosaurs were its most famous inhabitants, but this era is also known for unique ecosystems on land, in water and in the air. The supercontinent Pangea split up and by the end of the Cretaceous the continents had come close to the present day position. The climate experienced several drastic changes throughout the era.
Nowhere in the world is the history of life on Earth better documented than on the archipelago of Svalbard, including its largest island Spitsbergen. Svalbard has deposits from the entire Mesozoic, both marine and terrestrial, and even though geological research has a long tradition in the Arctic, the majority of the area is still unexplored.
Since 2004 Spitsbergen Mesozoic Research Group has excavated and conducted research on the Mesozoic ecosystems on Svalbard. The project has a broad span and covers marine reptiles, dinosaur tracks, invertebrates, methane seeps and sedimentology. The project started in 2001, when a group of scientists and students found a fossil plesiosaur in the black shale in the Slottsmøya Member of the Agardhfjellet Formation (Volgian, Upper Jurassic). The discovery was reported to Professor Jørn H. Hurum at the Natural History Museum in Oslo who set up an expedition to collect the fossil in 2004. During this expedition, additional discoveries were made, and in 2012 the team completed a highly productive, eight year field campaign to excavate marine reptiles. The team collected 60 specimens of marine reptiles and was scientifically prolific in its products, including 24 peer-reviewed papers, 12 master degrees, three completed doctoral degrees and three PhDs still in progress.
The outreach efforts of the project has had worldwide impact through documentaries at National Geographic Channel, History/BBC, ZDF and many national TV programs, blogs, a children book, and numerous popular papers and lectures.
In 2014 the project continued, and the team went to Isfjorden on Spitsbergen to map older marine reptiles, from the Triassic. These fossils will be important for understanding the evolution of ichthyosaurs globally. No major field-based research program has been conducted on Triassic reptiles in Svalbard for a century since the first important discoveries were made by a Swedish research group. In 2015 and 2016 the team returned to Flowerdalen and excavated several fossil skeletons discovered the previous years.
Delsett, L. L., A. J. Roberts, P. S. Druckenmiller and J. H. Hurum. 2017. A New Ophthalmosaurid (Ichthyosauria) from Svalbard, Norway, and Evolution of the Ichthyopterygian Pelvic Girdle. PLOS ONE 12(1): e0169971.
Delsett, L. L., L. K. Novis, A. J. Roberts, M. J. Koevoets, Ø. Hammer, P. S. Druckenmiller and J. H. Hurum. 2015. The Slottsmøya marine reptile Lagerstätte: depositional environments, taphonomy and diagenesis. Geological Society, London, Special Publications 434.
- Druckenmiller, P.S., Hurum, J.H., Knutsen, E.M. & Nakrem, H.A. 2012: Two new ophthalmosaurids (Reptilia: Ichthyosauria) from the Agardhfjellet Formation (Upper Jurassic: Volgian/Tithonian), Svalbard, Norway. Norwegian Journal of Geology, Vol 92, pp. 311-339.
- Hammer, O., Hryniewicz, K., Hurum, J.H., Hoyberget, M., Knutsen, E.M. & Nakrem, H.A. 2013. Large onychites (cephalopod hooks) from the Upper Jurassic of the Boreal Realm. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica, 58, 827-835.
- Hryniewicz, K., Nakrem, H. A., Hammer, Ø., Little, C.T.S., Kaim, A., Sandy. M. &. Hurum, J.H. 2014. The palaeoecology of latest Jurassic-earliest Cretaceous hydrocarbon seep carbonates from Spitsbergen, Svalbard. Lethaia.
- Hryniewicz, K., Little, C.T.S. & Nakrem, H. A. 2014. Bivalves from the latest Jurassic-earliest Cretaceous hydrocarbon seep carbonates from central Spitsbergen, Svalbard. Zootaxa 3859(1), 66 pp.
- Hurum, J.H. & Helleve T. 2012: Monsterøglene på Svalbard. CappelenDamm. 76s.
- Hurum, J.H., Nakrem, H.A., Hammer, Ø, Knutsen, E. M., Druckenmiller, P.S., Hryniewicz, K. & Novis, L.K. 2012: An Arctic Lagerstätte – the Slottsmøya Member of the Agardhfjellet Formation (Upper Jurassic – Lower Cretaceous) of Spitsbergen. Norwegian Journal of Geology, Vol 92, pp. 55-64.
- Hurum, J.H., Roberts, A.J., Nakrem, H.A., Stenløkk, J.A. & Mørk, A. 2014: The first recovered ichthyosaur from the Middle Triassic of Edgeøya, Svalbard. Norwegian Petroleum Directorate Bulletin 11, 97-110.
- Hurum, J. H., P. S. Druckenmiller, Ø. Hammer, H. A. Nakrem and S. Olaussen. 2016. The theropod that wasn't: an ornithopod tracksite from the Helvetiafjellet Formation (Lower Cretaceous) of Boltodden, Svalbard. Geological Society, London, Special Publications 434.
- Knutsen, E.M., Druckenmiller, P.S. & Hurum, J.H. 2012a: Two new species of long-necked plesiosaurians (Reptilia: Sauropterygia) from the Upper Jurassic (Middle Volgian) Agardhfjellet Formation of central Spitsbergen. Norwegian Journal of Geology, Vol 92, pp. 187-212.
- Knutsen, E.M., Druckenmiller, P.S. & Hurum, J.H. 2012b: A new plesiosauroid (Reptilia: Sauropterygia) from the Agardhfjellet Formation (Middle Volgian) of central Spitsbergen, Norway. Norwegian Journal of Geology, Vol 92, pp. 213-234.
- Knutsen, E.M., Druckenmiller, P.S. & Hurum, J.H. 2012c: A new species of Pliosaurus (Sauropterygia: Plesiosauria) from the Middle Volgian of central Spitsbergen, Norway. Norwegian Journal of Geology, Vol 92, pp. 235-258.
- Koevoets, M. J., Abay, T. B., Hammer, Ø. & Olaussen, S. High-resolution organic carbon–isotope stratigraphy of the Middle Jurassic–Lower Cretaceous Agardhfjellet Formation of central Spitsbergen, Svalbard. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 449, 266-274.
- Roberts, A.J., Druckenmiller, P. S., Delsett, L. L. & Hurum, J.H. 2017. Osteology and relationships of Colymbosaurus Seeley, 1874, based on new material of C. svalbardensis from the Slottsmøya Member, Agardhfjellet Formation of central Spitsbergen. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, e1278381
- Roberts, A.J., Druckenmiller, P.S., Sætre, G.-P. & Hurum, J.H. 2014. A New Upper Jurassic Ophthalmosaurid Ichthyosaur from the Slottsmøya Member, Agardhfjellet Formation of Central Spitsbergen. PLoS ONE, 9, e103152.
- Sandy, M., Hryniewicz, K., Hammer, Ø., Nakrem, H. A., & Little, C.T.S. 2014. Brachiopods from Late Jurassic – Early Cretaceous hydrocarbon seep deposits, central Spitsbergen, Svalbard. Zootaxa, 3884 (6).
- Wierzbowski, A., Hryniewicz, K., Hammer, O., Nakrem, H.A. & Little, C.T.S. 2011. Ammonites from hydrocarbon seep carbonate bodies from the uppermost Jurassic - lowermost Cretaceous of Spitsbergen and their biostratigraphical importance. Neues Jahrbuch Fur Geologie Und Palaontologie-Abhandlungen, 262, 267-288.