Monday, December 12, 2011

Long-ignored fossil determined to be brand new species of horned dinosaur

Dinosaur fossil
A set of dinosaur bones unearthed in Alberta in 1916 and left unexamined on a shelf in Britain's Natural History Museum for over ninety years has yielded a sudden and significant discovery: a brand new species of horned dinosaur that is forcing scientists to review the dividing line between two huge, plant-eating beasts associated with the well-known triceratops. The 75-million-year-old skull fragments from many people of the newly identified species were found during a first World War-era dig in an exceedingly dinosaur bone bed southeast of Calgary, inside or just outside of today's Dinosaur Provincial Park.

The specimens were collected by the renowned American fossil hunter Charles H. Sternberg and his son Levi.

The family, which later was instrumental in the creation of Dinosaur Provincial Park, created several pioneering paleontologists who went on to distinguished careers in Canadian science, including Levi with the Royal Ontario Museum and his brothers George at the University of Alberta and Charles M. Sternberg of the longer term Canadian Museum of Nature.

The Alberta bones delivered to Britain ninety five years ago were promptly dismissed as indecipherable "rubbish" by the London museum's geology curator. In 2000, when seeing photos of the fossils that suggested they could in fact, represent a brand new species, Canadian paleontologist Michael Ryan —currently curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History — visited the British museum solely to find that the bone fragments had been misplaced.

More recently, American dinosaur professional Andrew Farke contacted Ryan to mention that he'd found the Sternberg specimens and agreed that they marked an important but long-overlooked insight into the evolution of horned dinosaurs.

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