- Published on Wednesday, 11 July 2012 10:34
- Written by © DrumhellerMail.com
Climbing the hills near the Morrin Bridge Campground, the sound of a jackhammer rings throughout the valley. The hot sun beats down on the earth, and a small crew of four from the Royal Tyrrell Museum were busy extracting an exciting find.
In early June, a duck-billed dinosaur skull, believed to be 71 million years old, was discovered by a hiker while enjoying the beauty of the badlands. The hiker reported the find to the museum.
“So far there is not enough exposed to know specifically what type of duck-billed dinosaur it is, but the hadrosaur has been the most common type found in this rock formation, so we presume for now it could be one of those guys,” said François Therrien, curator of dinosaur palaeoecology at the Royal Tyrrell Museum.
However, Therrien said until the fossil is completely prepared they cannot be one hundred per cent positive.
Beginning the field work on Wednesday, July 4, it took the crew three days to extract the discovery. It was careful work to prepare the fossil for the move; six layers of plaster and burlap had to be coated on the skull to give it stability as the crew removed it from the sandstone.
“In the early 20th century when palaeontologists came into the valley they found many fossils in the stretch between Tolman Bridge and Drumheller. Some of the best specimens of Edmontosaurus [a type of duck-billed dinosaur] are from this area,” said Therrien.
Many of these specimens, found in the early days, were sent to museums in places like Ottawa and New York said Therrien. This was before Tyrrell’s time and Therrien said the museum doesn’t have many good fossils of the Edmontosaurus. The fact that there is a skull now is exciting because this particular discovery has the potential to be the most complete fossil of the species owned by the Tyrrell.
“The Edmontosaurus is found in the part of the formation that has coal. Coal beds represent ancient swamp deposits. This guy seemed to have preferred wet, marshy environments,” said Therrien.
Therrien explained there was a large inland sea that covered much of North America. He said there were many marshes on land, similar to Florida or Louisiana present day. This would have made the area ideal for the dinosaur.