JEDDAH: Fossilized remains of a large marine lizard dating back more than 80 million years have been found during excavation work in Saudi Arabia’s western region.
Saudi Geological Survey staff involved in mapping the Kingdom discovered the skeletal remains of the reptile — one of the earliest records of marine life to be found in the Red Sea coastal area.
The discovery was revealed on Tuesday during an announcement by the Red Sea Development Company of a partnership with the SGS to carry out one of Kingdom’s largest-ever geological surveys in the region.
John Pagano, CEO of RSDC and the AMAALA luxury tourism project, said that the partnership will help to identify areas of unique geological importance and uncover the rich natural history of the Arabian Peninsula.
“The spirit of adventure has always been tied to the essence of discovery. Our destination is already home to the site of Saudi Arabia’s first underwater excavation, but above the water, we are now finding geological and paleontological evidence of millions of years of activity in the region,” he said.
Pagano added: “This partnership continues our commitment as a responsible developer to identifying, preserving, and displaying these natural treasures found right beneath our feet. Paleontology is a growing area of study within the Kingdom, and we are hoping to help support interest in discovering the ancient heritage buried along our coastline.”
The excavations along the Red Sea coast unearthed fossil samples ranging from the late Cretaceous to the Eocene period — roughly 80 to 45 million years ago. About half of the sites surveyed produced rare finds, with researchers expecting to discover many more on future digs.
Saudi Geological Survey CEO Abdullah Shamrani said: “The rare finds from the central coastal areas of the Red Sea tell fascinating stories about the evolution of life in the region over tens of millions of years.”
He said that the TRSDC partnership will help to uncover “the mysteries of these important and unexplored geological areas,” highlighting the historic value of the destination.
“I’m sure we will discover important landmarks for geology that tourists from around the world will want to learn about and see for themselves.”
Several marine vertebrates found by the excavation team were recorded for the first time in the area, including remains of one of the largest turtles thought to have ever inhabited the region. These findings follow the earlier discovery of part of a skull from a plesiosaur, a large marine reptile, at the site.
In 2021, TRSDC and SGS signed a joint technical agreement related to geological, environmental and marine research, as well as geo-engineering and geotechnical studies for the Red Sea region in the northwest of the Kingdom.