A father and son in southern Alberta came across quite the catch as they were fishing in the Castle River last summer. In August, the pair was standing in the river when they noticed the large rock with a dark patch. It was a fossil of a partial dinosaur skull, neck and chest.
They immediately reported it to staff at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology in Drumheller.
“We finally got to check it Sept. 23 and the water was still up to our knees,” said Donald Henderson, curator of dinosaurs at the museum. “It was cold and we were poking underneath it to try to find out was underneath, but boy was it cold.
“We knew the river levels would drop and finally, in the last week of October, it was workable.”
The specimen, which weighs about 2,500 kilograms, was safely extracted by scientists and airlifted to the museum in Drumheller.
There’s still work to be done, but Henderson said it’s a duck-billed dinosaur that would have roamed Alberta about 80 million years ago.
“They are super common,” he said. “They are the most common thing in Dinosaur Park. They were the dominant plant eaters in the late part of the Cretaceous Period.”
The fossil was discovered in an entirely new area to find evidence of dinosaurs in southern Alberta.
“I’m sure there’s all kinds of treasures hiding in the forest,” he said, noting the area on the eastern slopes of the Rockies is largely undiscovered. “You don’t just start digging anywhere. This tells us this is a place we should be paying more attention to, but we are really limited to cuts, construction sites or riverbanks to find things.
“We are definitely going to have a closer look next summer.”
Henderson said the fossil was probably unearthed from the riverbed prior to the 2013 floods, but he suggested the high water levels likely rolled it over so it became visible to the fishermen.