Fossils In Focus

Fossils in Focus Entrance

The Museum’s collection of fossils is vast and diverse. The majority of specimens have been found right here in Alberta, the most remarkable place in the world to find fossils from 80 – 55 million years ago. Only a fraction of our collection is on display throughout the Museum. This rotating exhibit will highlight some of our most remarkable and scientifically significant fossils, chosen from the tens of thousands of specimens in our collection.
New specimens reflecting current research will be added as the science of palaeontology moves forward.

Current Specimens 2015

Regaliceratops peterhewsi

The Frill of Discovery
Regaliceratops peterhewsi
(ree-GAY-lih-SER-uh-tops peter-HEWS-ee-eye)
• Regaliceratops peterhewsi is a newly described genus and species of ceratopsid (horned dinosaur) that lived during the Late Cretaceous 68.5 – 67.5 million years ago and is a close relative of Triceratops
• Ceratopsids are divided into two groups: chasmosaurines (e.g., Triceratops) and centrosaurines. Centrosaurines went extinct several million years before the chasmosaurines, that went extinct at the end of the Cretaceous along with all the other dinosaurs
• Characteristically, chasmosaurines have a small nose horn, large horns over their eyes, and shield-like frills with simple scalloped edges. Regaliceratops is unexpected because it shows the exact opposite pattern with a large nose horn, small horns over the eyes, and elaborately decorated frills similar to centrosaurines. This demonstrates that at least one group of chasmosaurines evolved ornamentation similar to centrosaurines following their extinction
• Discovered by Calgary resident Peter Hews, a geologist in the petroleum industry, in 2005. He found the snout sticking out of a cliff along the Oldman River in southwestern Alberta, Canada where horned dinosaurs have not been found before
• Nicknamed after the comic book character “Hellboy” due to the difficulty collecting the specimen and for the challenging preparation process to remove it from the very hard rock in which it was encased


Mini Meat-eater
• Protictis was a small, primitive mammal that probably resembled living weasels
• As a meat-eating mammal, they have a specialized set of teeth for shearing flesh
• This is the best-preserved and most nearly complete specimen of Protictis found in Alberta
• Ongoing research on Protictis, as well as other fossil mammals, continues to give us a better understanding of the ancient mammal communities that existed in Alberta 60 or so million years ago

Plesiadapis and Phenacolemur

Monkeying Around in Alberta
Plesiadapis and Phenacolemur
(PLEES-ee-ah-DAPP-sis) and (fenn-ah-COLE-eh-myur)
• The earliest primates first appear in the fossil record soon after the extinction of the dinosaurs 66 million years ago
• These are distant relatives of living primates that were small and squirrel-like
• Western Canada has one of the densest fossil records of early primates
• Plesiadapis and Phenacolemur are two of the more common early primates that lived in Alberta during the Palaeocene Epoch (66 – 55 million years ago)

Castle River Hadrosaur

Like Water off a Duckbill ’s Back
Castle River Hadrosaur
• Lived 80 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous
• Discovered by a Calgary area father and his two sons fishing along Castle River in southwestern Alberta in August 2014
• Since this specimen is older than other hadrosaur fossils found in southern Alberta, and comes from an area without prior dinosaur discoveries, it could represent a new species
• A helicopter was needed to lift the 1300 kg block from its precarious location in the river

Bird Feather Fragment in Amber

Fine Feathered Friends
Bird feather fragment in amber
• A visiting researcher to the Royal Tyrrell Museum, Ryan McKellar of the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, discovered three-dimensional, near-perfectly preserved feathers in several pieces of 80-million-year-old amber (tiny drops of fossilized tree resin)
• The exquisitely fossilized specimens range from simple protofeathers of dinosaurs to much more complex feathers that resemble those
of modern birds
• Study of pigments in several of the feathers revealed a range of colours that is consistent with that seen in modern birds

Centrosaurus and Styracosaurus

Horns through time
Centrosaurus apertus and Styracosaurus albertensis
(SEN-troh-SORE-us ah-PUR-tus and STYE-rack-oh-SORE-us al-BURR-ten-sis)
• Both Centrosaurus and Styracosaurus lived in Alberta, but not at the same time. Centrosaurus lived 77 – 76.6 million years ago and Styracosaurus lived 76.6 – 76.3 million years ago
• The question of the evolutionary relationship between Centrosaurus and Styracosaurus remains an important topic of our ongoing research
at the Museum
• The horns at the back of the Styracosaurus skull are small compared to other specimens, indicating this animal was not fully grown when it died

Stangerochampsa mccabei

What’s In a Name?
Stangerochampsa mccabei
(STAIN-jurr-oh-CHAMP-sah mick-CABE-ee-eye)
• Lived 72 million years ago and is Alberta’s first known alligator
• Is one of only three early alligators known from the Late Cretaceous of Alberta
• Named for landowner Ron Stanger (Stangerochampsa), and Museum technician Jim McCabe (mccabei) who discovered it on a weekend hike in Horsethief Canyon, Drumheller


2 thoughts on “Fossils In Focus

  1. For me, the castle rock hadrosaur is the most beautiful of all the fossils showcased here. There’s just something magical about a skeleton encased in a rock which resembles the gigantic version of a pebble. Everything looks fantastic! By the way, I was wondering why you guys restored the horn core of the Regaliceratops holotype partially. Was there an issue with preservation?

    All the best,


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