Palaeontologists from the University of Calgary made an exciting discovery in Drumheller this past Thursday, unearthing remains of what appears to be the massive skull of a pachyrhinosaur, a dinosaur that is commonly believed to have been extinct for over 70 million years. Darla Zelenitsky of the University of Calgary is credited with the find, which is thought to be the first of its kind in the area in roughly 50 years.
Discovered inside the town limits of Drumheller, on what was a routinely scheduled fossil search, only the dinosaur skull’s snout was visible above the ground at first, although millions of years of laying in the ground had made the remains hardly recognizable to the untrained eye. In fact, it was only after some degree of excavation and a little luck that the dinosaur skull was identified as a true valuable find, as the initially visible portion of the pachyrhinosaur’s skull was suspected to merely be an unusual chunk of stone. Several days of excavation and nearly five tonnes of rock later, the ancient discovery was unearthed sufficiently enough to be identified as a pachyrhinosaur skull, and Zelenitsky and her team have plans to return to the discovery location this summer in order to determine if any other remnants of the extinct species can be uncovered.
With the University of Calgary’s unveiling of the newly unearthed pachyrhinosaur remains in Drumheller possibly being the largest of its kind, there has been much excitement generated throughout the palaeontology community. The discovery of such large, intact remains of the rare extinct species may prove to be an exciting development for pachyrhinosaur research, as the skull has the promising potential to gift scientists with much insight into various aspects of the obscure species’ existence and growth patterns.
Known information regarding the pachyrhinosaurus (meaning “thick-nosed lizard) is slim, although scientists have nonetheless managed to piece together some interesting information on the long-lost species. It is believed that the herbivorous pachyrhinosaurus could grow beyond six metres in length, and weigh as much as four tonnes. Like many other ancient species, the pachyrhinosaur’s head was a crown of horns and hard bones, which most likely had been used for combat or in mating competitions. Living during the Cretaceous period, the pachyrhinosaurus may have been a herding species which most likely hatched from eggs.
Located within the Red Deer Valley of east-central Alberta, Canada, Drumheller has been dubbed the dinosaur capital of the world, or “Dinosaur Valley”. Home to the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology since 1985, the town of Drumheller is a common hotspot for aspiring palaeontologists and dinosaur enthusiasts alike.
With the recent pachyrhinosaur skull discovery, Drumheller’s reputation as dinosaur capital of the world remains intact, and the palaeontology department of the University of Calgary will have some fascinating new material to study, along with leads on where to find more buried fossil treasure. Sure to be one of the most exciting paleontological discoveries of 2014, Darla Zelenitsky’s unearthing of the massive pachyrhinosaur remains in Drumheller will no doubt stir up some much-needed fresh new interest in ancient species studies.
By Christopher White