Dinosaur bones at the Nodwell property (Photo by NCC)

Dinosaur bones at the Nodwell property (Photo by NCC)

Nathan Hrushkin uncovers Alberta’s dinosaur history

Nathan and Dion Hrushkin at the Nodwell property (Photo by NCC)

Nathan and Dion Hrushkin at the Nodwell property (Photo by NCC)

The Nodwell property at Horseshoe Canyon, near Drumheller, is the site of a recent dinosaur discovery. In July, 12-year-old aspiring paleontologist Nathan Hrushkin and his father, Dion, were hiking on the conservation area, which is located in a pocket of Badlands amidst the Prairies, when they discovered some partially exposed bones.

They sent photos of their find to the Royal Tyrrell Museum, who identified that the bones belonged to a young hadrosaur, commonly known as a duck-billed dinosaur.

“My dad and I have been visiting this property for a couple of years, hoping to find a dinosaur fossil, and we’ve seen lots of little bone fragments,” said Nathan. “This year I was exploring higher up the canyon and found about four bones.

“We sent pictures to the Royal Tyrrell Museum and François, the paleontologist who replied, was able to identify one of the bones as a humerus from the photos, so we knew we’d found something this time.”

Because fossil reports from the Horseshoe Canyon area are rare, the Royal Tyrrell Museum sent a team to the conservation site. For three months, a team of paleontologists uncovered between 30 and 50 dinosaur bones belonging to a single specimen.

François Therrien, curator of Dinosaur Palaeoecology at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology said “This young hadrosaur is a very important discovery because it comes from a time interval for which we know very little about what kind of dinosaurs or animals lived in Alberta. Nathan and Dion’s find will help us fill this big gap in our knowledge of dinosaur evolution.”

While hadrosaurs are the most common fossils found in Alberta’s Badlands, this particular specimen is noteworthy because few juvenile skeletons have been recovered and also because of its location in the strata, or the rock formation.

“I’ve been wanting to be a paleontologist for six or seven years. I am fascinated about how bones from creatures that lived tens of millions of years ago become these fossil rocks, which are just sitting on the ground waiting to be found,” said Nathan.

Numerous significant fossil discoveries are made each year by the public, and this young hadrosaur is a great example. The Hrushkins are a perfect example of what to do when someone discovers fossils: take photos of the bones, record their location using a GPS or Google Earth, report the find to the Royal Tyrrell Museum and, most importantly, leave the fossils undisturbed in the ground. The latter is the most important step, as fossils are protected by law and much information is lost when they are removed from their location.

The discovery of this dinosaur on a conservation site demonstrates the need for land conservation, not just to ensure the conservation of wild spaces for future generations, but also as an opportunity to learn about our natural heritage.

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