POLITICS

Ding-dong dino: rare triceratops fossil almost on Alberta museum's doorstep

08/17/2012 03:51 EDT | Updated 10/17/2012 05:12 EDT
DRUMHELLER, Alta. - It wasn't the Avon lady on the doorstep of southern Alberta's world-renowned dinosaur museum this summer.

Instead a former employee discovered the remains of a triceratops just 30 minutes east of the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller.

The bones of the triple-horned herbivore that roamed 65 million years ago had become exposed through erosion.

"We always say we don't choose where we find fossils," said curator Francois Therrien. "They're just where they are and most of the time they're stuck in the middle of the Badlands. And they're kilometres away from the road and the only way to get the big block out is to use a helicopter.

"Here in this case it was just by the side of the road, I'd say less than 30 metres."

Therrien said the other thing that made the find so exciting was that triceratops remains are more often found in Saskatchewan and Montana. The museum only had fragments of bones, even though Alberta is a hotbed for other dino discoveries.

"Triceratops is the most common dinosaur found, but for some reason in Alberta it is very rare. There's just a handful of specimens that have been collected since the 20th century and the Royal Tyrrell does not have a good specimen in its collection."

That's all changed now. A team from the museum worked for 12 days and uncovered a large "log jam" of vertebrae, ribs and other bones belonging to the prehistoric creature.

The vertebrae are over 60 centimetres tall and the ribs nearly two metres long. The specimen was transported in six protective casings, or field jackets. The main jacket measured 2.5 metres by 1.3 metres and weighed more than 2,000 kilograms.

But a dinosaur hunter's work is never done. Therrien said he was poking around another site Friday morning and found some T. Rex material.

"There's always new discoveries to be made."

— With files from CJCY