A University of Windsor graduate discovered a new species of dinosaur after he pieced together fossils that had been sitting in a drawer since the 1950s.
Ian Morrison works in the paleontology department at the Royal Ontario Museum. The dinosaur was named in his honour.
Gryphoceratops morrisoni is the smallest adult horned dinosaur in North America.
An expedition from the Royal Ontario Museum discovered lower right jaw fragments of the dinosaur in the fossil beds of southern Alberta in 1950.
David Evans, associate curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Royal Ontario Museum, and his colleague, Michael Ryan, tried to piece it together for six to eight years, and eventually gave up.
"I recognized this little jaw but it was in a bunch of little pieces, too many and too incomplete to put together,” Evans said.
So they languished in the corner of a collection drawer until Evans pulled them out and let Morrison give it a try.
“Within an hour, Ian had the whole thing together,” Evans said. “It was those pieces that allowed us to notice a bunch of distinctive features of the jaw and clinched the fact that it was very different from what we had before.”
Morrison said he has always been good at putting pieces together.
“I majored in sculpture at the University of Windsor, and the training I received in fabricating three-dimensional objects translates well into the preparation and display of dinosaur bones,” Morrison said. “That day, the puzzle turned out to be just as important scientifically as it was interesting to solve.”
Evans said many of the best technicians in his field come from arts backgrounds.
“They are able to picture things in three dimensions, and they are perfectionists,” he said.
Morrison said that having a dinosaur named after him is a nice pat on the back.
“I’m honoured to have my work for the Royal Ontario Museum acknowledged in such a unique way,” he said.