World's best dinosaur fossil of its kind found in Alberta

Scientists at the Royal Tyrrell Museum unveil the monumental discovery

By: Metro Published on Fri May 12 2017,

While digging through the earth some six years ago, an oil sands miner north of Fort McMurray had struck a dinosaur.

Little did he know, he had just unearthed one of the most significant discoveries, ever.

β€œIt’s been worth the wait,” said Donald Henderson, the curator for the Royal Tyrrell Museum, during an announcement Friday for the first-ever unveiling of the 112-million-year old nodosaur (an armoured dinosaur).  

β€œIt’s the best-preserved armoured dinosaur in the world.”

The nodosaur has been so well kept that pieces of its skin, its armour, and stomach content are preserved.

β€œIt’s truly exceptional,” Henderson said, noting the fossil is three-dimensional, a rare treat because most specimens are usually flattened.

He said the fossil’s near-pristine condition was caused by its quick burial undersea millions of years ago, when Alberta was home to a subtropical climate with lush forests and rivers flowing into a warm inland sea.

Prior to its death, the nearly 3,000-pound, 18-foot long herbivore grazed the lands much like a rhino. Scientists plan to study its armour to deepen their understanding of what the species looked like and how they moved.

But what’s more remarkable, according to Henderson, is the fact that it had been discovered in the first place.

He said miners at the Suncor Millennium Mine near Fort McMurray had shifted 1.3 billion cubic metres of rock from the site over a span of 20 years, without finding a single significant fossil.

That's until they came across the nodosaur.  

β€œYou could squeeze this thing into a cubic metre,” he said. β€œSo this is really a one-in-a-billion find.”

Andrew Neuman, executive director with the Tyrrell, said the discovery highlights an important partnership scientists have with industry workers, as crews excavate thousands of cubic metres of earth every year.

"Staff at the Royal Tyrrell Museum and our colleagues at the Royal Alberta Museum have been working for several decades to educate industry on the importance of preserving and protecting fossils uncovered by industrial activities,” he said.

He said research on the nodosaur was supported through the National Geographic Society, which will be featured in the publication’s June 2017 edition. 

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