* Rare ankylosaur fossil well preserved, 3-dimensional
* Fossil buried in rock above oil sand deposit
By Julie Gordon
TORONTO, March 25 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
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
"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
(SU.TO) 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
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)