Researchers hope newly excavated dino skull answers evolutionary questions
Published Friday, September 29, 2017 11:53AM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, October 1, 2017 5:57PM EDT
A rare dinosaur skull is on its way to Ottawa from the Alberta badlands, where it had been hidden for tens of millions of years.
The 2,000-pound horned skull belongs to the Chasmosaurus canadensis, a cousin of the triceratops, and is an exciting find for researchers.
“We have other specimens of Chasmosaurs canadensis to date. The only problem is that they tend to be historical specimens, collected maybe 100 years ago and, because they were collected so long ago, we don’t have good records about where they exactly came from in the rock record,” paleontologist Jordon Mallon told CTV Calgary.
Mallon, who discovered the skull in 2015, has spent the last two years excavating the rare fossil.
First, workers coated the skull with plaster to protect it from the elements until it could be removed and a year later on Thursday the researchers used a helicopter to lift it out.
“To actually see the lift happen successfully and see my dinosaur 50 feet in the air, it was just the greatest feeling. It was awesome,” Mallon said.
The skull was then loaded onto a flatbed and transported to the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, where it will be packed into a crate to be shipped to Ottawa.
Once it arrives at the Canadian Museum of Nature, the rock and plaster will be removed and scientists will study it.
Mallon told CTV Calgary that the fossil could be the key to a long held debate about the species.
“Most Chasmosaurus have very short brow horns over the eyes and the thing that makes Chasmosaurus canadensis interesting is the fact that it’s got very long brow horns over the eyes,” he explained.
“There’s been debate over the years as to what that means. Maybe it’s male and the short horned ones are female; maybe it’s a different species. At this stage, we’re thinking it may be a different species and this skull here will help to clarify that matter.”
After researchers in Ottawa are done with the skull, it will be returned to Alberta where it will be put on display.
With files from CTV Calgary’s Terry Vogt and Michael Franklin