Alberta researchers unearth rare complete baby dinosaur fossil
It’s incredibly rare to find a complete skeleton of a baby dinosaur, but that’s just what a team of researchers at the University of Alberta and The Royal Tyrrell Museum did when they found the juvenile fossil of a Chasmosaurus belli, a dinosaur similar to a Triceratops. The find is the smallest ever for dinosaurs of this type.
The team made the find in Dinosaur Provincial Park in southern Alberta.
“The big ones just preserve better: They don’t get eaten, they don’t get destroyed by animals,” Dr. Philip Currie, a paleobiologist at the University of Alberta and research associate at the Tyrrell Museum told Live Science. “You always hope you’re going to find something small and that it will turn out to be a dinosaur.”
The skeleton was so well preserved, it seems, because the animal was sucked into a sink hole and trapped just as it died. The team estimates the dino was about three years old when it perished and about a metre and a half long. Ceratopsids such as the Chasmosaurus and the Triceratops reach full size after about 20 years when just the animal’s skull would have been about two metres long.
The corpse did not have bite marks or other obvious causes for death, so the scientists presume that it died from drowning.
“I think it may have just gotten trapped out of its league in terms of water current,” Currie told LiveScience.
The fossil was found when Currie noticed something sticking out of the side of the hill which turned out to be the frill of the Chasmosaur.
Adult Chasmosaurus finds are relatively common Dinosaur Provincial Park, which is about two and a half hours southeast of Calgary and one of the most active fossil sites in the world. The park, where more than 40 dinosaur species have been found, was named a World Heritage site in 1979. In 1985, the Royal Tyrrell Museum opened near the park, which offered a place to display and study the finds from the area.
Currie — a preeminent palaeontologist and one of the inspirations for Jurassic Park‘s Alan Grant — was one of the people to push for the creation of the Tyrell museum and is supporting the creation of the Philip J. Currie museum in Northern Alberta to serve as a similar resource to the Tyrell in the south.