Thursday, 01 December 2011 12:55

T.rex Discovery Center researchers continue to study new dinosaur

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Research confirms that a partial skeleton discovered in Saskatchewan is a new species of plant-eating dinosaur.

The new species has been named Thescelosaurus assiniboiensis* after Saskatchewan's historic District of Assiniboia, in which it was found. The 66 million year old specimen was collected from the Frenchman River Valley near Eastend in 1968 by Albert E. Swanston while working for the Saskatchewan Museum of Natural History (now the Royal Saskatchewan Museum) in Regina.

Nearly 40 years after it was collected, the specimen, was studied and identified as a new species, as part of a Masters thesis by Caleb M. Brown at the University of Calgary (now a Ph.D. student at the University of Toronto), his supervisor, Dr. Anthony P. Russell and co-author Clint Boyd of the University of Texas at Austin. The new dinosaur species is described in the December 2011 edition of the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society.

"It's not every day a new species of dinosaur is identified and this is a great reminder of the richness of Saskatchewan's fossil record," Tourism, Parks, Culture and Sport Minister Bill Hutchinson said. "It also shows the significance of ongoing studies at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum and how the institution and its personnel play an important role in working with scientists and research centres across Canada and around the world."

"Although similar dinosaur species have been found south of the border, in Montana, Wyoming and North and South Dakota, Thescelosaurus assiniboiensis has a number of unique traits that distinguish it from its relatives," Brown said. "The new dinosaur lived alongside Tyrannosaurus and Triceratops at the very end of the age of dinosaurs and is notable for its small size compared to other contemporary herbivores - similar in size to a white-tailed deer. While we know a great deal about the large dinosaurs of this time, our understanding of small-bodied dinosaur diversity and abundance remains comparatively poor. This discovery suggests smaller dinosaurs were more diverse than previously thought immediately before the extinction event."

The work of the staff of the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, both at its research station at the T.rex Discovery Centre in Eastend and in Regina, continues to increase understanding of Saskatchewan's fossil heritage. Discoveries of additional new types of animal and plant life are expected as their fossils continue to emerge from the Saskatchewan sediments. They will in turn be studied by other scientists around the world.

The partial skeleton can be seen at the T.rex Discovery Centre in Eastend (www.trexcentre.ca/) and an exact cast is on display at the RSM in Regina (www.royalsaskmuseum.ca/).

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