Monday, December 22, 2014

Rare dino skull found

CALGARY—A rare dinosaur skull unveiled by University of Calgary paleontologists yesterday literally was hiding in plain sight.
Even with Prof. Darla Zelenitsky pointing out the eye socket of the massive pachyrhinosaur’s skull, it still looked like just a giant chunk of rock.

And with it being found inside the town limits of Drumheller (billed as the dinosaur capital of the world), it probably had hundreds of prehistoric enthusiasts traipsing over it for decades before anyone noticed.
“It appeared to me as being a fairly well-trampled area, and my research assistant had pointed out what looked like a rock with a bumpy surface,” noted Zelenitsky.
“We eventually started to excavate and realized it was potentially part of a horned-dinosaur skull.
“After several days of excavating, we realized it was a good portion of one of these pachyrhinosaur dinosaur skulls, so it was really quite exciting,” she added.
Pachyrhinosaurs were four-legged herbivores that lived about 72 million years ago in what is now Alberta and Alaska.
They could grow to more than six metres in length and weighed four tonnes.
Their heads were adorned with big bony bumps and horns, and large frills extended over the back of their necks.
The head features probably were used for mating competition or combat. Zelenitsky said the dinosaur is likely to have had few enemies.
She said the specimen found in Drumheller appears to be that of a mature pachyrhinosaur—and that’s rare.
“From the Drumheller area, there’s very few pachyrhinosaur skulls that have been collected,” Zelenitsky noted.
“There was part of one that was collected over 50 years ago, so this is the first one in 50 years and we’ve got a good portion—probably 75-80 percent of it.”
Zelenitsky said there may have been other pachyrhinosaur specimens found over the years, but it is impossible to identify without the skull.
The recovery team plans to be back at the site this spring with the hope there will be more of the specimen buried in the ground.

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