November 8, 2012
New species of dinosaur found
By Thane Burnett, QMI Agency
Researchers say they've discovered a new species of dinosaur after identifying the bones of three dinosaurs found near the village of Foremost, Alta., in 1958.
The scientific significance of the bones wasn't understood then, so the bits of 80-million-year-old skull were cocooned in plaster and wrapped in burlap. Then they were tucked away.
Now rediscovered, the species of horned dinosaur has finally been given a name — Xenoceratops foremostensis — in part as tribute to the little community of 500 people.
"We've always known we've had unique individuals living here," Foremost Mayor Ken Kultgen said of the now identified early settlers.
Locals recall a large dinosaur find had been made in the '50s. But they thought it must have been just one of many species that pop up in the region.
But the giant plant eaters — more than six metres long and weighing over two tonnes — were special. They represent the oldest known large-bodied horned dinosaur from Canada.
After going through an evolutionary explosion, the beasts would develop the massive spikes on their head shields that would inspire countless toys and cartoons.
The first part of the dinosaur's new moniker means "alien horned-face," said Dr. David Evans, a researcher at the Royal Ontario Museum, who helped track and identify the remains along with Dr. Michael Ryan, a curator at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.
Evans says the case mirrors how investigators once put aside DNA samples in the hopes science would one day connect the dots.
In this case, the original discoverer, Dr. Wann Langston Jr., didn't have the context to identify the species. But he made sure to store them away at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa until Evans and Ryan could put it all together again.
"It wasn't a case of a perfectly preserved skull sitting on a shelf," Evans said, adding the rediscovery highlights the importance of preserving scientific collections.