Canadian Dinosaur Find: New Species?

ResearchBlogging.orgThe first dinosaur bones (that we know of) to have been discovered in British Columbia, Canada, are now being reported. These are bones found in 1971, eventually making their way to the Royal British Columbia Museum, and now being reported by V.M. Arbour and M.C. Graves. The bones were initially found by Kenny Flyborg Larsen, a geologist prospecting for thorium. He was drawn to these bones because the bones themselves are radioactive, and his instruments led him to them.

(This is an update on this, as Arbour kindly sent me a copy of the original paper.)

Arbour and Graves go through great pains to try to figure out exactly what geological formation these bones came from, as the available information is a bit vague. Through a seris of analysis, combined with an interview with the collector and an inspection of his field notes, they make a convincing case that these dinosaur bones probably come from the Brothers Peak Formation, and are of Late Cretaceous age. That would suggest an age of between about 65 and 100 million years ago. \

But what of the remains themselves? They consist of several limb bones, mostly from the right side, and a few other bits. The researchers have identified this dinosaur as an Ornithischian beast, meaning, a dinosaur with a bird-like morphology. You've no doubt heard that birds are really dinosaurs, or that dinosaurs never really went extinct, they just became birds, and so on. Well, those are oversimplified and rather quaint statements but yes, this is a dinosaur in the same Order that, essentially, includes the birds.

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The authors conclude that this set of bones may represent more than one individual, possibly across more than one taxon, but generally of Ornithischian form.

According to lead author Arbour:

There are similarities with two other kinds of dinosaurs, although there's also an arm bone we've never seen before. The Sustut dinosaur may be a new species, but we won't know for sure until more fossils can be found,

Arbour, V.M., Graves, M.C. (2008). An ornithischian dinosaur from the Sustut Basin, north-central British Columbia, Canada. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences , 45, 457-463.

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It's almost certainly a new species. Most species are known from parts of a single individual, and new ones are discovered once every three weeks or so.

When uranium, thorium or the like occur in the groundwater, they often get stuck in fossil bones.

meaning, a dinosaur with a bird-like morphology.

Not at all, no. The name comes from the fact that ornithischians have the pubis (one of the three hip bones per side) pointing backwards, parallel to the ischium, rather than forwards, at 90° to the ischium. Birds share this condition, and so do segnosaurs and dromaeosaurids... all of these, birds included, are saurischians.

By David Marjanović (not verified) on 16 Jun 2008 #permalink

Insert "dinosaur" behind "most" in my second sentence.

By David Marjanović (not verified) on 16 Jun 2008 #permalink

Romeo: I was thinking about adding an FAQ to this post:

1) If the dinosaur was radioactive, was it stronger than Godzilla?

and so on .

"The name comes from the fact that ornithischians have the pubis (one of the three hip bones per side) pointing backwards" Yes,exactly. I was trying to avoid being too technical especially without a handy drawing.