3-D computer rendering courtesy Pipestone Creek Dinosaur Project
Fossils of an entire herd of dinosaurs that died in a flood or some other catastrophe 73 million years ago in what today is Alberta, Canada, have been named after the science teacher that found them.
Pachyrhinosaurus lakustai is the name of the new species, Philip Currie, a University of Alberta paleontologist involved in the excavation of the fossils in the late 1980s, announced today.
The name honors Al Lakusta, now retired science teacher from Grande Prairie Public School District. He was teaching junior high science classes in Crystal Park School in Grande Prairie at the time of the discovery. The photo on the left is of Lakusta in the 1970s.
The dinosaurs Lakusta discovered are characterized by a bony frill on the back of the skull ornamented with smaller horns. They also had large bony structures above their nose and eyes which lends them their name: Pachyrhinosaurus (thick-nosed lizard), Currie said.
Northwest Alberta was not known for dinosaur fossils until the 1970s, when Lakusta’s excavations and studies in the area led the Royal Tyrrell Museum to begin excavation of the bone bed, Currie said.
“The density of the Pipestone Creek bone bed is exceptional and surpasses many of Alberta’s other ceratopsian bone bed sites,” Currie said.. “The preservation of the material is outstanding and was easy to collect.”
Sculpture by Brian Cooley, courtesy Pipestone Creek Dinosaur Project
The site contains fossils from young and old individuals, allowing researchers to describe individual variations and growth patterns, investigate the possibility of male/female differences, and hypothesize on a herding lifestyle.
The Pipestone Creek Dinosaur Project is developing the bone bed as the northern part of an overall provincial network of paleontological sites, to present them as a tourism, education, and research center.
Currie and colleagues describe the new species in “A New Horned Dinosaur from an Upper Cretaceous Bone Bed in Alberta,” a monograph published by NRC Press.
Philip Currie of the University of Alberta at the Pipestone Creek bone bed, courtesy Pipestone Creek Dinosaur Project