Rare dinosaur found in Canada's oil sands

TORONTO Fri Mar 25, 2011 2:16pm EDT

The 110-million-year-old dinosaur fossil found in Canada's oil sands this week. REUTERS/Alberta Culture and Community

The 110-million-year-old dinosaur fossil found in Canada's oil sands this week.

Credit: Reuters/Alberta Culture and Community

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TORONTO (Reuters) - The Canadian oil sands, a vast expanse of tar and sand being mined for crude oil, yielded treasure of another kind this week when an oil company worker unearthed a 110-million-year-old dinosaur fossil that wasn't supposed to be there.

The fossil is an ankylosaur, a plant-eating dinosaur with powerful limbs, armor plating and a club-like tail. Finding it in this region of northern Alberta was a surprise because millions of years ago the area was covered by water.

"We've never found a dinosaur in this location," Donald Henderson, a curator at Alberta's Royal Tyrrell Museum, which is devoted to dinosaurs, said on Friday. "Because the area was once a sea, most finds are invertebrates such as clams and ammonites."

The ankylosaur that was found by the oil worker is expected to be about 5 meters (16-1/2 feet) long and 2 meters (6-1/2 feet) wide.

"It is pretty amazing that it survived in such good condition," said Henderson, noting the fossil was three dimensional, not flattened by the heavy rock sediment.

"It is also the earliest complete dinosaur that we have from this province."

The fossil was found on Wednesday by a Suncor Energy shovel operator who was clearing ground ahead of development. By a quirk of fate, the worker had visited the Royal Tyrrell dinosaur museum in southern Alberta just the week before.

Henderson suggested he may have had dinosaurs on the brain. "Maybe his mind was subconsciously prepared."

Suncor has suspended work at the site and has given scientists a three-week window to remove the fossil and ship it to the Royal Tyrrell museum.

The last major fossil find in northern Alberta was a giant reptile called an ichthyosaur, which was found 10 years ago near Fort McMurray.

(Editing by Peter Galloway)

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Comments (3)
morbas wrote:
At that time, Northern Alberta was much closer to the North Pole, and studies of the Northern AK slope indicate a seasonal weather pattern close to that of Whistler area. Migration of warm blooded Dinosaur across the arctic circle is assumed (ankylosaur included), similar with carabou winter migration (’Arctic Dinosaur’, NOVA 2011). Could this be evidence of a late migration path across ice?

Mar 26, 2011 12:02pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
varela wrote:

Mar 26, 2011 12:03pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
5tudentT wrote:
Serendipity. Glad the shovel operator was a curious sort.

Mar 28, 2011 12:22pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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