Jul
11
2006

Dinosaurs in the big city

Edmontosaurus at Oxford University: Photo courtesy Ballista
Edmontosaurus at Oxford University: Photo courtesy Ballista
An entire herd of duckbill dinosaurs is being uncovered in Canada near a new subdivision in the city of Edmonton, Alberta.

The dinosaur, known as the Edmontosaurus, is one of the more common dinosaurs to live during the late Cretaceous period some 70-65 million years ago.

"It’s not just one Edmontosaurus skeleton. It is, in fact, many Edmontosaurus skeletons,” said Philip Currie, famed dinosaur hunter and professor at the University of Alberta in Edmonton.

The Edmontosaurus was a large, three-toed plant-eating dinosaur that was over forty feet long and weighed as much as three and one-half tons. Its mouth contained hundreds of teeth, suitable for grinding up the toughest of foods. It was bipedal but also may have moved about on all fours. Edmontosaurus remains have been found from Wyoming to as far north as Alaska.

The dinosaur, however, isn’t named for the city of Edmonton as many think, but rather for the rock unit, the Edmonton Formation, where bones of the genus had been found earlier in southern Alberta. The name was given by Canadian paleontologist, Lawrence Lambe.

Mummified Edmontosaurus: Public Domain photograph
Mummified Edmontosaurus: Public Domain photograph
The most famous Edmontosaurus remains were found by fossil-hunter Charles H. Sternberg in Wyoming in 1908. The fossil, a mummified carcass of the dinosaur, had a nearly complete skeleton and showed impressions of muscle as well as the texture of the dinosaur’s leathery skin.

When the Edmonton site was first discovered, in 1988, Currie was curator of dinosaurs at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, Alberta, and did some initial work on it. But when he took a position at the University of Alberta last fall, he thought it would make a good and accessible field school for his students. Last month, however, he realized the dig site was much larger than originally thought, and could take several field seasons to dig up.

"With a herd of dinosaurs we can learn a lot about how they grew up, how they changed as they grew, and differences in individuals," said Currie. "That's significant because we rarely have enough specimens."

The size of the find presents several questions.

"Why were they herding?” Currie asked. “Why did we find them in the Arctic circle? Does that mean they were migrating from Alberta?"

The answers may lie preserved in the bone yard.

Story sources:
Calgary Sun Newspaper
Toronto Star Newspaper

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

i have some fossils found in grandbury tx. i have pictures would someone look at them and tell me what to do with them

posted on Wed, 07/30/2008 - 3:09pm

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