B.C.'s first dinosaur skull found by vacationing Canadian
Saturday, June 24, 2017, 11:36 AM - Tumbler Ridge, B.C., home to several hundreds of recently discovered dinosaur bones and fossilized footprints, is somewhat of a treasure trove for paleontologists; however, its latest relic marks a historic first for B.C.
A dinosaur skull discovered in Tumbler Ridge area in early June is the province's first discovery of this kind, and the farthest westward record of a dinosaur skull in Canada.
Image courtesy of Richard McCrea, Peace Region Palaeontology Research Centre
It was Rick Lambert, a Vancouver Island chiropractor, who discovered the skull. According to CBC News, Lambert and his wife, Sonia, were on a camping trip in Tumbler Ridge. The pair were hiking the area's trails when they stumbled across the fossil.
"I was wandering along the creek and I just saw it," Lambert told the CBC.
"It was obvious to me that there was something unusual in the rock. So, I got a bit closer and had a look ... As soon as I looked, I could see that it had teeth — about 12 teeth — and it had what looked like fragments of bone built into the structure of the fossil above the teeth."
Lambert contacted the Peace Region Palaeontology Research Centre, who then transported the fossil (and the 100-kilogram boulder encompassing it) to its affiliated museum to study.
Rick Lambert pictured beside B.C.'s first-ever dinosaur skull. Image courtesy of Richard McCrea, Peace Region Palaeontology Research Centre.
Richard McCrea, director and curator at the Peace Region Palaeontology Research Centre, tells The Weather Network that the skull could belong to a tyrannosaurid like Albertosaurus or Gorgosaurus.
"The age that we’re talking about here is about 10 million years before that extinction event, and so we’re looking at animals that would’ve been ancestral to t-rex – somewhat distantly related," McCrea says.
The science behind identifying the type of skull comes down to geometry, McCrea explains.
"The geometry of this bone, which is the left maxilla, indicates that it’s part of the Albertosaurinae sub-family of tyrannosaurs."
If this is the case, the dinosaur would've been a carnivore roughly 75 million years old, and likely the largest predator in its local ecosystem.
Albertosaurus sculpture in the Royal Tyrrell Museum. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
These types of discoveries, McCrea says, happen many times in a year. What surprised the paleontologist was the origin of the fossilized bone.
"[W]here this was found was a surprise, because the rock that the bone was found in was quarried from another site. It was part of an industrial landscaping process," McCrea tells The Weather Network. "So the bone did not come from where it was found."
Without telling too much, McCrea says the rock carrying the dinosaur skull originated in northeastern B.C."
McCrea and his team visited the undisclosed quarry soon after the discovery. To McCrea's knowledge, no similar discoveries have been identified in the area, aside from a couple of pieces of bone he and his team discovered on their first visit.
An outline graphic of a tyrannosaur skull, made by McCrea. The portion of the skull that was discovered (the maxilla) is in grey. Image courtesy of Richard McCrea, Peace Region Palaeontology Research Centre.
McCrea attributes recent discoveries like this to the grassroots creation of a museum and a UNESCO Global Geopark.
"This was all done by volunteers and with a few staff. We're not supported provincially, by our provincial government, and this the only province that has this level of paleontological resources that does not support research," McCrea says.
"Before we showed up there was only one possible dinosaur bone that was known from this whole province … but now we have hundreds, and we keep finding them every year. It’s because there are people looking now. If there’s no resource in the province, it doesn’t need to be funded. But there are and it should be.”