150 things about Canadian palaeo, part 8 – Dinosaur fossil localities

In case you’re new to this series or my blog, I’m writing 150 things about palaeontology in Canada in order to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday this July. To look back on previous posts, scroll to the bottom of this post to find a list of previous posts.

For part 8, I’m going to talk about some of the various dinosaur fossil-bearing localities in Canada. I’ve already mentioned the greatness of Dinosaur Provincial Park, but there are plenty of other localities around the country, in particular in Alberta, BC and Saskatchewan, where dinosaurs can be found. Starting at 51/150…

51. Pipestone Creek is a great sight in northern Alberta, where a large bonebed of the ceratopsian dinosaur Pachyrhinosaurus lakustai was found in 1973 by local teacher Al Lakusta. The bonebed consists of an extremely high density of bones, with the vast majority of specimens coming from a single species, although there are some tyrannosaur teeth and other bits and pieces as well. This sight was so important that a museum was opened a few years ago nearby to showcase the dinosaur finds of northern Alberta, the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum.

An example of the density of bones from the Pipestone Creek bonebed, which I worked at a few summers ago.

52. Another great site in southern Alberta is Devil’s Coulee, home to a large number of dinosaur egg fossils, giving it another name of Egg Mountain. Found in 1975, this was the first ever find of a dinosaur nesting site in Canada. Although the initial finds were just eggshell, there are also embryonic dinosaur remains, and it is one of the best sites for tiny embryonic dinosaur material in the world, making it extremely important to understand dinosaur growth and ontogeny.

53. Also in southern Alberta is Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park, where many dinosaur fossils have been found. The most famous find, however, is the Albertosaurus bonebed which was first found in 1910 by Barnum Brown, and re-discovered by Phil Currie in 1997. This site has changed some of our thoughts on the behaviour of tyrannosaurs. With at least 13 individuals found in one place, it has lead to the suggestion that it indicates gregarious behaviour in tyrannosaurs. Perhaps they lived in social groups rather than as solo predators.

Although this photo is not of the bonebed itself, it is the view from Dry Island, where you can see the numerous exposures of Dinosaur Park Formation along the Red Deer River, where so many Alberta dinosaurs are found.

54. My hometown of Edmonton is also home to dinosaurs. While they have been found a few times from sewer digs and other excavations, there is a large site on the south side that is home to an Edmontosaurus bonebed. Although Edmontosaurus was first found in southern Alberta, and actually named for the Edmonton Formation (now the Horseshoe Canyon Formation), it is actually present in multitude in the city. The Danek Bonebed (named for the person who found it) was found in 1989, and the bonebed is worked extensively by the University of Alberta each summer, where students learn how to excavate, collect, prepare, and then study the specimens. I’ve spent a few weeks at this bonebed, where I did my first dig.

My niece Abigail, Phil Currie and I at the Danek Bonebed where Abigail got to have her first dinosaur dig experience, in the same place I had mine!

55. But of course, there are dinosaur fossils outside of Alberta! Although not bones (mostly), the dinosaur footprints of the Tumbler Ridge and Peace Region of northern British Columbia are just as significant. Often in trackways, these footprints allow for an insight into behaviour and locomotion, by studying the gait of the animals. At least 3 different groups of dinosaur footprints have been found, including theropods, ankylosaurs, and ornithopods. This region includes 9 of the 14 tyrannosaur prints found in the world, and is home to the first tyrannosaur trackway found.

56. Not a single locality, southwest Saskatchewan is also home to a number of dinosaur finds. As the Cretaceous-Palaeogene boundary can be found in this region, the dinosaurs here date to the very end of the Cretaceous, just before extinction. These include animals such as TriceratopsEdmontosaurusAnkylosaurusTroodon, and a nice skeleton of Tyrannosaurus rex, which I will talk about more in a later post.

This is only a very small sample of where dinosaur fossils can be found in Canada, and I’ll talk about a few more in subsequent posts. Much more to come…

The series:

Part 1: Intro

Part 2: The Burgess Shale

Part 3: Early Canadian Palaeontologists

Part 4: Canadian Fossil Names

Part 5: Dinosaur Provincial Park

Part 6: Marine Fossils

Part 7: Current Canadian Palaeontologists

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