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Museum of Nature paleontologist finds horned dino head in Alberta

July 31 , 2016

by Tom Spears

People keep asking Jordan Mallon: Haven’t they found all the dinosaurs in Alberta?

Not even close. And the paleontologist from the Canadian Museum of Nature arrived back in southern Alberta Friday, looking for a helicopter to lift a dinosaur skull out of a hillside.

The badlands still hide ancient secrets, but their soft hillsides erode at a rate of one to two centimetres a year — enough to reveal buried bones surprisingly often to those who go and look.

“Erosion is very much our friend,” he said.

“I found it last year doing just that, just a piece of a frill sticking out” from a hillside, he said. The frill is the plate-shaped structure around a horned dinosaur’s head.

“I wasn’t sure what it was so that’s when you take out your hand tools and start brushing away some of the dirt and looking back into the hill. You hope the bone keeps going and in this case it did and it looks like we’ve got a whole horned dinosaur skull, which I’m pretty excited about.”

The skull is a long way along a trail which is accessible only on foot. That makes a helicopter essential.

“The terrain is precipitous enough that can’t get a vehicle in there and the skull is heavy enough that there’s no way we are going to walk it out.”

He will also investigate a “bone bed” at another site, an area near the South Saskatchewan River where a large number of animals died close together and conditions preserved their bones as fossils. The bone bed animals are fairly common species called Centrosaurus, but Mallon says there’s a lot to learn about how they lived and died.

The skull on the hillside is more rare. It’s a Chasmosaurus kaiseni.

The four-member museum team will be joined by some local experts, including staff from the Royal Tyrrell Museum.

Mallon plans to post photos and updates on his Twitter account, @jordan.mallon.

And yes, he has a wide-brimmed hat like the cool one that Sam Neill wears in Jurassic Park. But it’s not a fashion statement.

“It’s all about keeping the sun off your neck.”



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