Massive rare dinosaur skull unearthed in Canada

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A rare dinosaur skull unveiled by University of Calgary paleontologists Thursday was literally hiding in plain sight.

Massive rare dinosaur skull unearthed in Canada
University of Calgary professor Darla Zelenitsky points to the eye socket of the skull of a pachyrhinosaur found inside the town limits in Drumheller, Alta. [Credit: The Canadian Press/Bill Graveland]

Even with Prof. Darla Zelenitsky pointing out the eye socket of the “gargantuan” pachyrhinosaur’s skull, it still looked like just a giant chunk of rock.

And, with it being found inside the town limits of Drumheller — billed as the dinosaur capital of the world — it probably had hundreds of prehistoric enthusiasts traipsing over it for decades before anyone noticed.

“It appeared to me as being a fairly well-trampled area, and my research assistant had pointed out what looked like a rock with a bumpy surface. We eventually started to excavate and realized it was potentially part of a horned-dinosaur skull,” said Zelenitsky.

Massive rare dinosaur skull unearthed in Canada
Pachyrhinosaur lakustai, named after Grande Prairie science teacher Al Lakusta who originally found the dinosaurs bones in 1970 [Credit: The Canadian Press/University of Calgary]

“After several days of excavating we realized it was a good portion of one of these pachyrhinosaur dinosaur skulls, so it was really quite exciting.”

Pachyrhinosaurs were four-legged herbivores that lived about 72 million years ago in what is now Alberta and Alaska. They could grow to over six metres in length and weighed four tonnes. Their heads were adorned with big bony bumps and horns, and large frills extended over the back of their necks.

The head features were probably used for mating competition or combat. Zelenitsky said the dinosaur is likely to have had few enemies.

She said the specimen found in Drumheller appears to be that of a mature pachyrhinosaur — and that’s rare.

Source: The Canadian Post [February 20, 2014]

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