11/25/2014 09:09 am ET Updated Jan 25, 2015

Researchers Identify Species, Last Meal of Ancient Alaska Marine Reptile

It's taken 64 years to for scientists to be sure, but they have finally determined that bones found on the North Slope of Alaska's Brooks Range are those of an ichthyosaur, a giant marine reptile from the time of the dinosaurs.

In a paper published Nov. 25 in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, researchers offer positive identification of the fossil. They further note that fragments found in the vicinity of the animal's stomach provide important information about its diet.

Similar in form to a modern dolphin, the ichthyosaur swam in seas north of the Arctic Circle during the late Triassic Period, about 210 million years ago, said Patrick Druckenmiller, the University of Alaska Museum of the North curator of earth sciences and lead author of the paper.

The skeleton was found in 1950 by a team of U.S. Geological Survey geologists east of Cutaway Creek in Howard's Pass, 170 miles south of Barrow in what is now the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.