Attention dinosaur nerds: if you haven’t already, you’re going to want to add Alberta, Canada, to your bucket list, as the province now hosts one of the most spectacular dino fossils the world has ever seen.
Alberta is well known as home to one of the densest dinosaur deposits on the planet. The Canadian Rockies in general are rich in both fossils and fossil fuels, and the search for one has not infrequently led to the other. The latest stunner was unearthed in 2011 by workers in a mine near Fort McMurray, who knew something was amiss when their bucket pulled up oddly patterned, deep-brown lumps of some unfamiliar mineral. They dug in farther, more carefully, and that’s when they found it: a 9-foot-long chunk of monster, sculpted in stone.
But there had been no sculptor, only time and happenstance. The 2500-pound stone that eventually emerged was not a skull, or a footprint, or an egg. It was a petrified dinosaur.
“We don’t just have a skeleton,” Caleb Brown of the Royal Tyrrell Museum, where the dinosaur is on display, told National Geographic. “We have a dinosaur as it would have been.”
And not just any dinosaur, either. The hulking, armored beast preserved in the oil sands is new to science, the first of its species ever found. We know that it’s a type of ankylosaur called a nodosaur, and that its last days likely took place somewhere between 110 and 112 million years ago.
The recovered fossil contains only the dinosaur’s front end to its hips. In life, the nodosaur would have been 18 feet long and almost 3000 pounds. If that wasn’t enough to keep the haters away, it also had a pair of 20-inch spikes protruding from its shoulders, like a boss. Even in death, this herbivore looks tough.
Needless to say, dinosaur researchers are beside themselves with glee. The preservation is so good, paleobiologist Jakob Vinther of the University of Bristol told National Geographic, that “it might have been walking around a couple of weeks ago.”
[h/t National Geographic]