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Industrial finds unearth palaeontological past

A new exhibit at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology welcomes Albertans to discover spectacular fossil finds from across the province.

As one of the best places in the world for fossil preservation and discovery, Alberta is an exciting window into prehistoric life. The museum's new exhibit, Grounds for Discovery, showcases some of the most significant fossils that have been discovered through industrial work.

Thousands of cubic metres of soil, gravel, and bedrock are excavated in Alberta every year through road construction, urban development, mining and other industrial activity. When fossils are exposed during these activities, Royal Tyrrell Museum scientists and industrial workers cooperate to safely excavate and protect Alberta's fossils for scientific study and display.

Each discovery that has been reported and excavated contributes to global research.

"The new Grounds for Discovery exhibit shows visitors first-hand the positive outcomes of reporting fossil discoveries and working with industry. Through personal stories and exceptional specimens, the Royal Tyrrell Museum shows us once again why it is a premier palaeontological research centre and a world-class tourist attraction in this province."
- Ricardo Miranda, Minister of Culture and Tourism

New species on display

The centrepiece of the exhibit is a new species of dinosaur discovered at the Suncor Millennium Mine near Fort McMurray in 2011.

A Suncor employee spotted something unusual while excavating in the mine. Little did he know that this would turn out to be one of the most significant dinosaur discoveries in the world.

This new species of nodosaur (armoured dinosaur) is the oldest dinosaur known from Alberta – approximately 112 million years old – and is the best preserved armoured dinosaur ever found.

Since its discovery, the public have been able to share in the nodosaur's journey by watching its painstaking preparation by technicians through the lab gallery window. For the first time, all the pieces have been put together so it can finally share its story.

Research on this extraordinary nodosaur was supported through the National Geographic Society and is being featured in the June 2017 issue of National Geographic magazine, available online today and on print newsstands on May 30. The magazine feature includes an interactive featuring a 3D model of the nodosaur, both how it looked and lived in its day, and how it came to be fossilized for millions of years before its discovery.

Other exceptional finds highlighted in the exhibit include a new genus and species of a pantodont (a rare early mammal) found during road construction near Red Deer, and a mosasaur found at the Korite Mine in southern Alberta whose spectacular preservation sheds light on marine reptile behaviour.

"Staff at the Royal Tyrrell Museum and our colleagues at the Royal Alberta Museum have been working for several decades to educate industry on the importance of preserving and protecting fossils uncovered by industrial activities. This exhibit highlights some of the results of this collaborative approach to heritage preservation."
- Andrew Neuman executive director, Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology

Backgrounder: About the museum

As Canada's only museum devoted exclusively to palaeontology, the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology has established itself as an epicentre of scientific research and public engagement.

The museum attracts visitors from across the province, the nation and around the world. Since opening its doors in 1985, the museum has drawn more than 12.5 million visitors.

In its 32-year history, the museum has collected some of the best fossils in the world that have given us a better understanding of what life was like in ancient Alberta.

$9.3 million is being invested into a 1300m² expansion of the Museum expected to begin this summer and completed in 2019. The expansion project is being managed by Alberta Infrastructure.

Government of Alberta