December 15, 2009

U Of A Students Reaffirm The Work Of A 1920s Paleontologist

Three University of Alberta paleontology graduate students blew the dust off an 85-year-old dinosaur find to discover the original researcher had it right and a 1970s revision of his work was wrong.

The U of A grad students were studying a 76 million year old armadillo-like, armored dinosaur. It was found in 1924 in southern Alberta. Victoria Arbour was focused on the fossilized remains of the animal's pelvis and clubbed tail. Mike Burns examined its body amour and skull, and Robin Sissons was interested in how the animal got around, concentrating her work on its foot and limb mechanics.

The students traveled to the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto and began a detailed examination of the skeleton. When they combined their findings the trio discovered the specimen had been misidentified as the anklyosaur species Euoplocephalus. That re-classification was given to the bones in the mid '70's, supposedly correcting the original 1924 research by the late Canadian paleontologist, William Parks.

After re-examining the bones found by Parks and comparing them to more recent ankylosaur finds from Alberta the students came to a conclusion: Parks was right all along. His dinosaur is an ankylosaur, Dyoplosaurus, meaning "double armored dinosaur.

This discovery increases the number of known ankylosaur species. The lesson learned by the students in their investigation is that new dinosaur discoveries and new technologies enable researchers to reassess old ideas.


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