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2009-05-18 – Alberta, Canada: un nuovo dinosauro (new dinosaur)

New dino discovery – Finding sheds new light on dinosaur life in this area

Researchers believe they may have discovered yet another new dinosaur species in the South Peace.

The discovery coincides with the find of a nesting site near Grande Prairie that included the remains of infant plant-eating dinosaurs and the teeth of a predator.

Tetsuto Miyashita, a University of Alberta student from Japan, and Frederico Fanti, a paleontology graduate student from the University of Bologna, Italy, along with members of the Paleontological Society of the Peace (PSP), made the discovery that indicates dinosaurs nested further north than believed.

Miyashita said before the find, there were no significant areas between Alaska and the southern part of Alberta with a variety of dinosaurs present, and certainly none that showed dinosaurs nesting so far north.

“It established that dinosaurs were nesting at this high latitude,” he said.

“Alberta is dinosaur country, but all the dinosaurs we had previously showcased came from the southern part of the province. Now we’ve showed there is a lot of potential for the northern part as well.

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“By saying dinosaur country, now you mean the entire province, not only Drumheller and Brooks. Also this is a high-latitude locality. The dinosaurs were pushing the climatic limit in Grande Prairie.”

Though many finds have been made in southern Alberta, most of that area was under water more than 70 million years ago, which makes the possibilities in northern Alberta all that much more exciting, Fanti said.

“It was a joy to work in the Grande Prairie area verifying the significance of the fossils collected from the Wapiti (geological) Formation,” he said.

“This small northwest area was basically the only portion of Alberta and Saskatchewan that was above sea level 73 to 75 million years ago, providing habitat for land animals whose remains we collected, studied and described.”

Bert Hunt, a science professor at Grande Prairie Regional College and program co-ordinator for the PSP, said the fact dinosaurs nested this far north shows how different the climate was back in their time.

“The interesting thing is that’s the way the earth has been for most of its history. There was no cold, no poles, it was weather suitable for living,” he said. “Those animals inhabited every piece of land they could inhabit. They all had to move and eat and migrate. They ate a lot and had big bodies they had to feed, so they had to travel to find food.”

The recent discovery occurred in the well-known fossil-rich Kleskun Hills area northeast of Grande Prairie during the 2007 digging season. Fanti and Miyashita were out with Hunt, PSP president Katalin Ormay and PSP member Sheldon Graber, when Hunt spotted some fossils.

It wasn’t long before they were on their bellies looking for bones, Miyashita said.

“We found teeth, vertebrae and limb bones,” he said.

The bones belonged to freshly-hatched baby dinosaurs, about the size of guinea pigs, that would have grown to the size of elephants.

There were two types: Duckbills and some with horns.

They also discovered teeth from predators known as Troodon, small, agile carnivores that are believed to have preyed on baby dinos. Troodon was a dominant predator in the Alaska area.

Couple that with the fact that Fanti and Miyashita discovered the bones of freshwater fish and reptiles that were unlikely to have survived in the cold of Alaska, the duo believes northern Alberta was a mixture of northern and southern faunas, where animals from high and low altitudes co-existed.

This could provide some answers as to how dinosaurs responded to changing climates in their time.

This is not the first big dinosaur discovery made in northern Alberta.

Thirty-six years ago, Al Lakusta, a Montrose junior high science teacher at the time, came across a new species in a bone bed at Pipestone Creek, south of Wembley; a species that would later be named after him – pachyrhinosaurus lakustai.

Hunt said archeologists have only scratched the surface as far as the northern dinosaur remains are concerned.

“Probably in this Wapiti Formation that’s up to a kilometre thick around the Grande Prairie area, every single dinosaur, mammal or reptile will be a new species.

“We are sitting on an absolute gold mine,” he said.

“Basically Frederico, what he is doing right now (back in Italy) is bringing attention to the world that we have a layer of material and animals that have been buried and fossilized that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world.

“Bones, skeletons and teeth that didn’t exist anywhere else, or at least we have the only fossil records.”

 

WORLD IS AWARE

The fact the discovery was made by men from Japan and Italy is significant, because it shows the world is aware of what exists here, said Hunt.

“People all over the world will be here. We have the number-four fossil site in the world and the province of Alberta makes Canada the number-four country in the world for dinosaurs,” he said.

“The world knows we have something here and it’s time we recognized we have something here, and ask ‘what are we going to do about it?’ Maybe we better gear up our efforts and our research and our digging so we have our own people. We need to have some of our own people getting the publicity and fame as well.”

Discoveries like this are really beneficial to the area when it comes to awareness and education, said PSP’s Ormay.

“If you think about the project that is in the area to build a dinosaur museum (at Pipestone Creek), if you have something that’s new, something that’s significant, something that’s exciting, that generates interest from grade school kids up to grandpas,” she said.

“It has huge potential for educational purposes or opens the door for more research. Bringing in more research and new discoveries gives basis to all this; it’s something new to sink your teeth into.”

The economic value also cannot be ignored, said Hunt.

“It’s a resource to use for tourism. 400,000 people go to the (Royal) Tyrell Museum in Drumheller. They keep that city alive,” he said.

“When people come to Alberta, they want to see the Columbia ice fields and they want to see the Drumheller dinosaur museum. To put it bluntly, it would be good for tourism.”

 

MORE TO BE DISCOVERED

There is always more to be discovered, even at the same sites, as snow and rain washes away layers of dirt and unearths new specimens every year, Hunt said.

“Every year something new is exposed,” he said.

Miyashita and Fanti, cost permitting, hope to return to the Kleskun Hills site in 2010 and continue to examine the fossils that lie buried there.

“Frederico and I have a long way to go still, but it feels good, knowing that you will walk a long way for something that you like to do,” Miyashita said.

“I know I’ve found my passion and I will go anywhere it takes me.”

 

CHRISTOPHER MILLS, Herald-Tribune staff

cmills@bowesnet.com

source: Article ID# 1570550

maggio 18, 2009 - Posted by | - R. Dinosauri, America Northern, An. Vertebrates, P - Ritrovamenti fossili, Paleontology / Paleontologia

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