The Five Best Dinosaur Discoveries in Canada

Canada’s newest dinosaur. The yet-to-be-named* male dinosaur is from the triceratops family and can be seen at the Royal Ontario Museum.

Somehow The History Channel has found time in between their high quality programming about aliens and swamp hillbillies to squeeze in new show about history. Dino Hunt Canada is a four-part documentary-style  series with interactive multimedia components that covers eight dinosaur digs across Canada. One of these digs follows Dr. Evans and his team of paleontologists as they discover a new dinosaur (shown above), which was recently unveiled at the Royal Ontario Museum.

This latest discovery underscores the the fact that Canada is one of the best places in the world to find dinosaurs. While the Alberta Badlands serve as the pinnacle location, dinosaurs have been found across the prairies, all the way up to Nunavut. Here are the top five coolest dinosaur discoveries in Canada to date:

5. Triceratop

The largest and last of the horned dinosaurs, the Triceratops was a common fixture in the Late Cretaceous** Period (66–67 million years ago). It is easily one of the most recognizable dinosaurs due to its unique bony frill, three horns (one on the nose and a brow horn above each eye), and large body. An adult triceratops could weigh as much as
13000 kg, that’s more than two full-sized elephants! They usually grew to 10 ft in height and their skulls reached over two metres in length with the frill making up half of that. They had between 400 to 800 teeth, but only a small percentage of those were in use at any one time and their teeth were continually replaced throughout their lifetimes. Although Triceratop fossils have been found in Alberta and Saskatchewan, they are actually not that common in Canada. Finally, When you are the regular meal of the Tyrannosaurus Rex, you got to have a good defense system. I’ll say they did…

…In addition to their horns, scientists believe that triceratops were such fierce fighters that predators were forced to behead them first because triceratops would not stop fighting until they were dead.

4. Bay of Fundy Prosauropods


These dinosaurs are currently being excavated along the shores of the Bay of Fundy near Parrsboro, Nova Scotia and are potentially new species of prosauropod dinosaur. At the beginning of the Jurassic Period (200 million years ago), an earthquake occurred and a sand dune collapsed on top of a group of Prosauropods, burying them alive along the edge of a river channel. These unnamed Prosauropods are them officially the oldest dinosaur bones in Canada. Their evacuation is also being chronicled on Dino Hunt Canada.

These dinosaurs are so old that they are actually the predecessors of the ginormous sauropods, (dinosaurs with the super long-necks), the largest land animals in Earth’s history. At this time though, they were only 1.5 metres tall (half the height of a Triceratops) and weighed 490 kg. Their small heads were full of tiny, spade-shaped teeth, but these herbivores actually lacked grinding back teeth so to help digest the leaves they ate, they swallowed small rocks, which would have remained in their stomachs to assist with breaking down plant matter.

3. Parasaurolophus

Discovered by William Parks in 1922, the Parasaurolophus lived across the area that would become Alberta during the late Cretaceous period, (about 76-65 million years ago). This herbivore had a long, backwards-leaning crest coming out from its skull, which has led to many theories about its use, but no definite answers yet. It may have been used for thermoregulation,‭ to cooling the skull and brain. Or it may have enhanced its sense of smell. There is also the possibility that it produced a low-frequency, foghorn-like sound as a form of communication. If you grew up in the 90s, this should sound familiar…

From The Magic School Bus, “In the Time of the Dinosaurs,” aka the best episode.

2. Albertosaurus Sarcophagus

The one that started it all. In 1884, Joseph B. Tyrell found the Albertosaurus, which was the first major dinosaur discovery in Canada. This close relative of the Tyrannosaurus rex roamed the area that would become Alberta back in the late Cretaceous period, (about 76-74 million years ago). Like the T-Rex, the Albertosaurus was a bipedal carnivore with short arms, two-digit claws, and a long tail to help balance out their massive skulls. While smaller than the T-Rex, they still weighed in at over a metric ton.

1. Tyrannosaurus Rex

Is any dinosaur list really complete without a T-Rex? The “tyrant lizard” is easily the most famous of all the dinosaurs. Coming in at a whopping 6600kg (or sometimes more!) and stretching up to 18-20ft in height, the T-Rex was one of the most massive land-dwelling carnivores in Earth’s history. As with most of the others on this list, the T-Rex was a late Cretaceous dinosaur, living 67–66 million years ago. Three fossilized T-Rexs have been found in the lower prairies; the most well-known being “Scotty” from Saskatchewan (shown above).

The T-Rex was like other tyrannosaurids in that it was a bipedal carnivore with a massive skull, which was over a metre and a half in length and was full of “dozens of long, thick teeth shaped like serrated bananas.” With jaws that were 10x more powerful than an alligators, they had the strongest jaws in history. Also, the T-Rex had a long tail for balance, strong hind legs, and despite the fact that the T-Rex’s small arms are often made fun of, they were still powerful for their size. The T-Rex is at the heart of the longest debate in paleontology: were they predators or scavengers? Today, most believe that it was both—essentially the T-Rex was an opportunistic carnivore who would let faster dinosaurs (they could only run roughly 18km an hour) do the work for them, and then scare those dinosaurs off to get a free meal.

Fun Fact: The Stegosaurus and the Tyrannosaurus Rex never met. In fact, they were separated by 85 million years. The Stegosaurus lived 150 million years ago, while the T-Rex lived only 65 million years ago. Disney lied to us!

Agree? Disagree with my list? Do you have a favorite dinosaur? Let me know!


* According to Dr. Evans, the new dinosaur at the ROM lacks a name because normally one of this size would take two to three years to prepare; their team got it done in just 6 months. This gives the general public a chance to be part of history and submit their ideas in the “Name Our Dino” contest.

EDIT: The contest is over and ‘Cornelius’ was the winning nickname. Its official name is now ‘Wendiceratops,’ named after Wendy Sloboda, a legendary Albertan dinosaur hunter and photographer.

** If you are wondering why so many dinosaurs were from the Late Cretaceous era, its because that time period was the height of their existence. In fact, the era is commonly referred to as the Age of the Dinosaurs.


Sources

“Dino Index,” Dino Hunt Canada, The History Channel Online. Accessed from: http://dinohuntcanada.history.ca/#!/dinos

Haines, Tim, Walking with Dinosaurs: A Natural History, New York: Dorling Kindersley Ltd (2000).

Kaplan, Matt. “How to eat a Triceratops.” Nature: International Weekly Journal of Science. October 24, 2012. Accessed from: http://www.nature.com/news/how-to-eat-a-triceratops-1.11650

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