2 new dinosaurs named after Canadians
By Emily Chung, CBC News
Posted: Mar 14, 2012 8:10 AM ET
Last Updated: Mar 14, 2012 2:14 PM ET
Two new dinosaur species from Alberta, including one of the smallest adult plant-eating dinosaurs ever discovered, have been named after Canadians.
The first, which was about the size of a medium-sized dog, was named Gryphoceratops morrisoni, after Ian Morrison, a technician at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, who figured out how fossil fragments from the dinosaur's jaw fit together.
That was a task that had frustrated ROM assistant curator David Evans and his colleague Michael Ryan at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History for eight years.
"It took him about an hour," Evans said in an interview Tuesday. "He is a genius at putting three-dimensional puzzles together."Gryphoceratops morrisoni is the smallest species of horned dinosaur ever found in North America. (Julius T. Csotonyi/Cleveland Museum of Natural History)
The dinosaur, which lived about 83 million years ago, grew to be no more than half a metre long, or about the size of a springer spaniel, not including its tail. It belongs to a group of "horned" dinosaurs called Leptoceratopsids. They're related to Triceratops — famous for its impressive size, horns and frill — but are smaller, with only a subtle frill and ridges over their noses and eyes in place of long, pointed horns.
The other new species from the same family, Unescopceratops koppelhusae, has been named after Eva Koppelhus, a University of Alberta biologist who studies ancient plant spores and pollen that have been used to help figure out the age of other dinosaur fossils.
She is the wife of Philip Currie, the University of Alberta paleontologist who discovered the fossil at Alberta's Dinosaur Provincial Park. While she didn't have a direct role in the discovery, Evans said she has been an important mentor to many young paleontologists including himself.
The first part of the dinosaur's name is the reference to the fact that the park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Unescopceratops koppelhusa lived about 75 million years ago, grew to be about two metres long and weighed about 91 kilograms, making it about the size of a deer.
Both new species were identified and described from fragments of jawbones found some time ago. Fragments from the jaw of Gryphoceratops morrisoni were discovered in the Milk River rock formation in southern Alberta by Royal Ontario Museum paleontologist Levi Sternberg in 1950.Unescopceratops koppelhusa lived about 75 million years ago and was about the size of a deer. (Julius T. Csotonyi/Cleveland Museum of Natural History)
Evans rediscovered the fragments in a drawer in the museum about a decade ago and recognized them as belonging to a Leptoceratopsid dinosaur, but couldn't get much more information until Morisson pieced them together.
The fossil of Unescopceratops koppelhusa was discovered by Currie in 1995, and was known to be a Leptoceratopsid. It was later identified as being part of a completely new genus and species by Evans and Ryan, based on a comparison with other recently discovered species.
Evans, who co-authored the paper describing the new dinosaurs, said such small dinosaurs are usually poorly represented in the fossil record because their bones are more easily chewed apart or swallowed by predators, compared to those of larger dinosaurs. They become scattered and harder to find.
That means any discoveries of their fossil remains provide important information about dinosaur evolution. In this case, both new species are the only members of their family ever found from their time period and Gryphoceratops morrisoni is the oldest member of its family ever found.
Both new dinosaurs were described in the upcoming June issue of the journal Cretaceous Research, which was published online earlier this year.
Top News Headlines
- Search continues for 2 missing New Brunswick fishermen
- A search effort has resumed for two missing fishermen off the coast of New Brunswick, after a distress call was issued from their boat early Saturday. more »
- Jeep driver apologizes after stunt kills Edmonton woman
- A man claiming to be the driver of a Jeep that struck and killed a spectator at a charity event in Edmonton says he is sorry for what happened. more »
- Senior Pakistani politician shot dead
- Gunmen in Pakistan have killed a senior member of Imran Khan's Movement for Justice (PTI) party outside her home in Karachi. more »
- Virginia parade crash driver likely had medical problem
- Authorities believe the driver who plowed into dozens of hikers marching in a Virginia mountain town parade suffered from a medical condition and did not cause the crash intentionally, an emergency official said Sunday. more »
Latest Technology & Science News Headlines
- High Arctic research station saved by new funding
- Canada's northernmost research lab won't have to shut down after all and will be able to resume year-round operations, with the help of a new grant from the federal government. more »
- 2 earthquakes felt in Ontario and Quebec
- Two earthquakes near the Ontario-Quebec border could be felt across both provinces this morning. more »
- Chris Hadfield's translator: Q&A with Canadian astronaut Jeremy Hansen
- While Chris Hadfield was returning from the International Space Station on Monday night, another Canadian astronaut was offering his own unique play-by-play of the action as the Soyuz capsule plunged to Earth. more »
- Why some Canadians want to die on Mars
- More than 80,000 people have applied for a Dutch non-profit organization's proposed one-way trip to Mars. Anna Maria Tremonti, host of The Current, spoke to four Canadians — two Mars one applicants, a member of the Mars One team, and astronaut Julie Payette — about whether it's a good idea. more »
Bob McDonald's Blog
- Chris Hadfield: The gravity of gravity May. 17, 2013 9:58 AM After five months of being Superman and a media superstar, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield is now beginning the challenging task of adapting his mortal body and brain to life back on Earth.
Quirks & Quarks
- May 18: Apps for Apes May. 17, 2013 4:26 PM Scientists at more than 2 dozen zoos around the world, including the Toronto Zoo, have been using computer tablets to stimulate our bright orange primate cousins, the orangutans. And the orangutans have been loving it.
- Harper chief of staff resigns amid Senate expense scandal
- Spectator killed at Edmonton Jeep event
- Car drives into crowd at Virginia parade
- Toronto Mayor Rob Ford cancels weekly radio show
- Email is proof Senate greenlit expenses, Brazeau says
- Senior Pakistani politician shot dead
- Astronaut Chris Hadfield adjusts to 'earthling' life
- Winning ticket sold in Florida for $590M Powerball jackpot
- Iran hangs 2 men convicted of spying