'Gargantuan' pachyrhinosaur skull found near Drumheller

Calgary paleontologists unveiled a "gargantuan" pachyrhinosaur skull today, a rare discovery that is the first of its kind in the area in 50 years.

Dinosaur discovery unveiled at University of Calgary

Palaeontologist Darla Zelenitsky and her team found the skull of a pachyrhinosaur last October. (University of Calgary)

Calgary paleontologists unveiled a "gargantuan" pachyrhinosaur skull today. 

The rare discovery is the first of its kind in the area in 50 years. A partial skull from the dinosaur had been found previously.

The "gargantuan" find was made by the University of Calgary's Darla Zelenitsky in October, according to a release from the school.

"Pachyrhinosaurs, as seen in the recent movie Walking with Dinosaurs, were four-legged horned herbivores that lived about 70 million years ago in what are now Alberta and Alaska," reads the release.

"A pachyrhinosaurcould be over six metres in length and its head was adorned with large bony bumps, horns and a large frill at the back extending over the neck."

The university scientists were on a routine fossil search near Drumheller when the discovery was made.

What at first appeared to be a lump of rock was revealed as a massive horned dinosaur skull upon further excavation.

Could be largest specimen ever found

As if it were trying to get a sniff of 21st-century air after 72 million years underground, only the tip of the skull's snout was visible to Zelenitsky and her graduate student when they started digging. 

"We didn't really know initially what we were looking at, and as we continued to excavate more and more we thought this is looking really unusual — maybe it's part of a pachyrhinosaur," said Zelenitsky.

They continued to dig, removing nearly five tonnes of rock — the heavy toil with pickaxes and shovels and the fine work with dental tools.

"The anticipation was really driving us crazy, because we didn't really know how far this skull would go, but it turned out we had uncovered a good portion of the skull of this horned dinosaur," said Zelenitsky.

It could be the largest specimen ever found, she said.

The skull will give scientists insight into the life and growth patterns of the pachyrhinosaur. But researchers say the work has just begun, as other fragments of the dinosaur have yet to be uncovered.

"We need to go back this summer to determine if there's more of the skeleton preserved," said Zelenitsky.