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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.

Pliosaur hunting ichthyosaurs.

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.

In 2014 the team also investigated dinosaur tracks in another part of Spitsbergen. The tracks have been known sine 1976, but never properly described. It has turned out to be the largest dinosaur track assemblage on Svalbard.

Press images

Hurum, Druckenmiller & Knutsen demonstrating the powerful wind at Knorringfjellet, 2008
May-Liss Knudsen preparing the ichthyosaur skull, Natural History Museum, Oslo

Publications

Bratvold, J., Delsett, L. L. and Hurum, J. H. 2018: Chondrichthyans from the Grippia bonebed (Early Triassic) of Marmierfjellet, Spitsbergen. Norwegian Journal of Geology 98 (2), 189-218.

Collignon, M. and Hammer, Ø. 2012: Petrography and sedimentology of the Slottsmoya Member at Janusfjellet, central Spitsbergen. Norwegian Journal of Geology 92(2-3): 89-101.

Dalseg T.S., Nakrem H.A. and Smelror M. 2016: Organic-walled microfossils and palynodebris in cold seep carbonate deposits: The Upper Jurassic–Lower Cretaceous Agardhfjellet Formation on Svalbard (Arctic Norway). Norwegian Jorunal of Geology. 96 (2): 1-12.

Delsett, L.L., Novis, L.K., Roberts, A.J., Koevoets, M.J., Hammer, Ø, Druckenmiller, P.S. and Hurum, J.H. 2016: The Slottsmøya marine reptile Lagerstätte: Depositional environments, taphonomy and diagenesis. Geological Society Special Publication 434 (1), 165-188.

Delsett, L. L., Roberts, A. J., Druckenmiller, P. S. and Hurum, J. H. 2017: A New Ophthalmosaurid (Ichthyosauria) from Svalbard, Norway, and Evolution of the Ichthyopterygian Pelvic Girdle. PLOS ONE 12(1): e0169971.

Delsett, L. L., Druckenmiller, P. S., Roberts, A. J. and Hurum, J. H. 2018: A new specimen of Palvennia hoybergeti: Implications for cranial and pectoral girdle anatomy in ophthalmosaurid ichthyosaurs. PeerJ e5776.

Druckenmiller, P. S., Hurum J.H.,. Knutsen E.M  and Nakrem H.A. 2012: Two new ophthalmosaurids (Reptilia: Ichthyosauria) from the Agardhfjellet Formation (Upper Jurassic: Volgian/Tithonian), Svalbard, Norway. Norwegian Journal of Geology 92(2-3), 311-339.

Ekeheien, C., Delsett, L. L., Roberts, A. J. and Hurum, J. H. 2018: Preliminary report on ichthyopterygian elements from the Early Triassic (Spathian) of Spitsbergen. Norwegian Journal of Geology 98 (2), 219-238.

Engelschiøn, V. S., Delsett, L. L., Roberts, A. J. and Hurum, J. H. 2018: Large-sized ichthyosaurs from the Lower Saurian niveau of the Vikinghøgda Formation. (Early Triassic), Marmierfjellet, Spitsbergen. Norwegian Journal of Geology 98 (2), 239-266.

Hammer Ø, Nakrem HA, Little CTS, Hryniewicz K, Sandy MR, Hurum JH, Druckenmiller P, Knutsen EM, and Høyberget M. 2011: Hydrocarbon seeps from close to the Jurassic-Cretaceous boundary, Svalbard. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 306: 15-26. DOI: 10.1016/j.palaeo.2011.03.019.

Hammer Ø, Collignon M, Nakrem HA. 2012: Organic carbon isotope chemostratigraphy and cyclostratigraphy in the Volgian of Svalbard. Norwegian Journal of Geology 92: 103-112.

Hammer Ø., Hryniewicz K., Hurum J.H., Hoyberget M., Knutsen E.M. and Nakrem H.A. 2013: Large onychites (cephalopod hooks) from the Upper Jurassic of the Boreal Realm. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 58: 827-835. DOI: 10.4202/app.2012.0020.

Hansen, B. B., Hammer, Ø. and Nakrem, H.A. 2018: Stratigraphy and age of the Grippia niveau bonebed, Lower Triassic Vikinghøgda Formation, Spitsbergen. Norwegian Journal of Geology  98(2), 175- 187 . doi: https://dx.doi.org/10.17850/njg98-2-02

Hjálmarsdóttir, H.R., Nakrem, H.A. and Nagy, J. 2012: Foraminifera from Late Jurassic - Early Cretaceous hydrocarbon seep carbonates, central Spitsbergen, Svalbard - preliminary results. Norwegian Journal of Geology 92 (2-3): 157-165.

Hjálmarsdóttir, H.R., Nakrem, H.A. & Nagy, J. 2018: Environmental significance and taxonomy of well preserved foraminifera from Upper Jurassic – Lower Cretaceous hydrocarbon seep carbonates, central Spitsbergen. Micropalaeontology 64 (5-6), 46 pp.

Holmer, L.E. and Nakrem, H.A. 2012:The lingulid brachiopod Lingularia from lowermost Cretaceous hydrocarbon seep bodies, Sassenfjorden area, central Spitsbergen, Svalbard. Norwegian Journal of Geology 92.(2-3), 167-174.

Hryniewicz, K., Hammer, Ø., Nakrem. H.A. and Little C.T.S. 2012: Microfacies of the Volgian-Ryazanian (Jurassic-Cretaceous) hydrocarbon seep carbonates from Sassenfjorden, central Spitsbergen, Svalbard. Norwegian Journal of Geology 92(2-3), 113-131.

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), 1- 66 . doi: 10.11646/zootaxa.3859.1.1

Hryniewicz K., Nakrem H.A., Hammer Ø., Little C.T.S., Kaim A., Sandy M.R. and Hurum JH. 2015: The palaeoecology of the latest Jurassic–earliest Cretaceous hydrocarbon seep carbonates from Spitsbergen, Svalbard. Lethaia 48: 353-374. DOI: 10.1111/let.12112.

Hryniewicz, K., Hagström, J., Hammer, Ø., Kaim, A., Little, C.T.S. and Nakrem, H.A.2015: Late Jurassic-Early Cretaceous hydrocarbon seep boulders from Novaya Zemlya and their faunas. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 436, 231- 244 . doi: 10.1016/j.palaeo.2015.06.036

Hurum, J.H., Druckenmiller, P.S., Hammer, Ø., Nakrem, H.A. and Olaussen, S. 2016: The theropod that wasn't: An ornithopod tracksite from the Helvetiafjellet Formation (Lower Cretaceous) of Boltodden, Svalbard. Geological Society Special Publication, 434 (1), 189-206.

Hurum, J. H., Engelschiøn, V. S., Økland, I., Bratvold, J., Ekeheien, C., Roberts, A. J., Delsett, L. L., Hansen, B. B., Mørk, A., Nakrem, H. A., Druckenmiller, P. S. and Hammer, Ø. 2018: The history of exploration and stratigraphy of the early to middle Triassic vertebrate bearing strata of Svalbard (Sassendalen Group, Spitsbergen). Norwegian Journal of Geology 98 (2), 165-174.

Hurum, J. H., H. A. Nakrem, O. Hammer, E. M. Knutsen, P. S. Druckenmiller, K. Hryniewicz and L. K. Novis 2012: An Arctic Lagerstätte - the Slottsmøya Member of the Agardhfjellet Formation (Upper Jurassic - Lower Cretaceous) of Spitsbergen. Norwegian Journal of Geology 92(2-3), 55-64.

Hurum, J.H., Roberts, A.J., Dyke, G.J., Grundvåg, S.-A., Nakrem, H.A., Midtkandal, I., Śliwińska, K.K. and Olaussen, S. 2016: Bird or maniraptoran dinosaur? A femur from the Albian strata of Spitsbergen. Palaeontologia Polonica 67, 137-147.

Hurum, Jørn Harald; Roberts, Aubrey Jane; Nakrem, Hans Arne; Stenløkk, Jan A. and Mørk, Atle 2014: The first recovered ichthyosaur from the Middle Triassic of Edgeøya, Svalbard. Norwegian Petroleum Directorate Bulletin 11, 97- 110.

Kaim, A., Hryniewicz, K., Little, C.T.S. and Nakrem, H.A. 2017: Gastropods from the late Jurassic-early Cretaceous seep deposits in Spitsbergen, Svalbard. Zootaxa 4329.(4) 351-374.

Kihle J., Hurum J.H., and Liebe L. 2012: Preliminary results on liquid petroleum occurring as fluid inclusions in intracellular mineral precipitates in the vertebrae of Pliosaurus funkei. Norwegian Journal of Geology 92, 341-352.

Knutsen, E.M. (2012). A taxonomic revision of the genus Pliosaurus (Owen, 1841a) Owen, 1841b. Norwegian Journal of Geology 92(2-3), 259-276.

Knutsen, E.M., Druckenmiller P.S. and Hurum J.H. 2012a: Redescription and taxonomic clarification of 'Tricleidus' svalbardensis based on new material from the Agardhfjellet Formation (Middle Volgian). Norwegian Journal of Geology 92(2-3): 175-186.

Knutsen, E.M., Druckenmiller P.S. and Hurum J.H. 2012b: Two new species of long-necked plesiosaurians (Reptilia: Sauropterygia) from the Upper Jurassic (Middle Volgian) Agardhfjellet Formation of central Spitsbergen. Norwegian Journal of Geology 92(2-3), 187-212.

Knutsen, E.M., Druckenmiller P.S. and Hurum J.H. 2012c: "A new plesiosauroid (Reptilia: Sauropterygia) from the Agardhfjellet Formation (Middle Volgian) of central Spitsbergen, Norway." Norwegian Journal of Geology 92(2-3), 213-234.

Knutsen, E.M., Druckenmiller P.S. and Hurum J.H. 2012d: A new species of Pliosaurus (Sauropterygia: Plesiosauria) from the Middle Volgian of central Spitsbergen, Norway. Norwegian Journal of Geology 92(2-3), 235-258.

Koevoets, M.J., Abay, T.B., Hammer, Ø. and Olaussen, S. 2016: High-resolution organic carbon–isotope stratigraphy of the Middle Jurassic–Lower Cretaceous Agardhfjellet Formation of central Spitsbergen, Svalbard. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology. 449, 266- 274 . doi: 10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.02.029

Koevoets, M.J., Hammer, Ø., Olaussen, S., Senger, K. and Smelror, M. 2018: Integrating subsurface and outcrop data of the Middle Jurassic to Lower Cretaceous Agardhfjellet Formation in central Spitsbergen. Norwegian Journal of Geology 98(4), 1- 34 . doi: 10.17850/njg98-4-01

Koevoets, M.J., Hurum, J.H. and Hammer, Ø. 2018: New Late Jurassic teleost remains from the Agardhfjellet Formation, Spitsbergen, Svalbard. Norwegian Journal of Geology 98, 289-299.

Liebe L., and Hurum J.H. 2012: Gross internal structure and microstructure of plesiosaur limb bones from the Late Jurassic, central Spitsbergen. Norwegian Journal of Geology 92: 285-309.

Nakrem, H.A. and Kiessling, W. 2012: Late Jurassic (Volgian) radiolarians from Central Spitsbergen - a preliminary study. Norwegian Journal of Geology 92.(2-3), 149-155.

Piazza, V., Hammer, Ø. and Jattiot, R. 2017: New late Smithian (early triassic) ammonoids from the Lusitaniadalen member, Vikinghøgda formation, Svalbard. Norwegian Journal of Geology  97(2), 105- 117 . doi: 10.17850/njg97-2-03

Roberts A.J., Druckenmiller P.S., Sætre G-P., and Hurum J.H. 2014: A New Upper Jurassic Ophthalmosaurid Ichthyosaur from the Slottsmøya Member, Agardhfjellet Formation of Central Spitsbergen. PLoS ONE 9: e103152. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0103152.

Roberts A.J., Druckenmiller P.S., Delsett L.L. and 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 37: e1278381. DOI: 10.1080/02724634.2017.1278381.

Rousseau, J. and Nakrem H. A. 2012: An Upper Jurassic Boreal echinoderm Lagerstätte from Janusfjellet, central Spitsbergen. Norwegian Journal of Geology 92(2-3), 133-148.

Rousseau J., Gale A.S. and Thuy B. 2018: New articulated asteroids (Echinodermata, Asteroidea) and ophiuroids (Echinodermata, Ophiuroidea) from the Late Jurassic (Volgian / Tithonian) of central Spitsbergen. European Journal of Taxonomy 411, 1-26. https://doi.org/10.5852/ejt.2018.411

Sandy, M.R., Hryniewicz, K., Hammer, Ø., Nakrem, H.A.and Little, C.T.S. 2014: Brachiopods from late Jurassic - Early Cretaceous hydrocarbon seep deposits, central Spitsbergen, Svalbard. Zootaxa 3884(6), 501- 532 . doi: 10.11646/zootaxa.3884.6.1

Vinn, O., Hryniewicz, K.., Little, C.T.S. and Nakrem, H.A. 2014: Une faune boréale de Serpulidés des sédiments de plateaux et des suintements d’hydrocarbure du Volgien-Ryazanien de Svalbard (Jurassique terminal-Crétacé basal). Geodiversitas  36(4), 527- 540 . doi: 10.5252/g2014n4a2

Wierzbowski, A., Hryniewicz, K. Hammer, Ø., Nakrem, H.A. and 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 für Geologie und Palaontologie – Abhandlungen 262.(3), 267-288.

Økland, I., Delsett, L. L., Roberts, A. J. & Hurum, J. H. 2018: A Phalarodon fraasi (Ichthyosauria: Mixosauridae) from the Middle Triassic of Svalbard. Norwegian Journal of Geology 98 (2), 267-288.

Published Sep. 14, 2015 11:58 AM - Last modified Jan. 8, 2019 3:31 PM