The fossil found by Suncor employees in Fort McMurray will be flying to the Tyrrell museum this week, after extensive work is being done by scientists there to excavate the significant ankylosaur fossil.
“Especially now that we know most of the skeleton is there, it will teach us a lot more about these dinosaurs,” said Dr. Don Brinkman, director of preservation and research at the Tyrrell. “It’s going to provide our first sense of what the animals were like who lived at that time.”
The ankylosaur fossil, a plant-eating quadrupeds with powerful limbs and armor plating on their bodies, is completely three dimensional – rare for fossils.
The media firestorm surrounding the find, with major news outlets like CNN picking up the story, has got the scientific world buzzing.
“Because it’s so unexpected, we’ve had some good response from it,” said Brinkman.
Once back at the Royal Tyrrell Museum, work will begin to prepare the specimen. Brinkman said they expect it to take a year to prepare it, but will have it on display in front of the prep lab window in the museum.
“It’s going to be a long involved process, the rock is very hard so we have to use powertools,” he said. “Because the armor plating is rough, we don’t know what the separation between the matrix and bone will be like.”
Finding a specimen like this in northern Alberta is rare, as that part was ocean when this ankylosaur fossil must have washed out to the ocean. It was not ripped apart by predators, and was buried rapidly, Brinkman said.
The Tyrrell believes this is a significant find because ankylosaurs are quite rare, and this may be the oldest dinosaur found in Alberta so far.