Media Releases

May 12, 2017

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

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


Grounds for Discovery Fact Sheet

About The Museum Fact Sheet

Media inquiries:

John Archer
Acting Press Secretary
Alberta Culture and Tourism

Carrie-Ann Lunde
Head, Marketing & Public Relations
Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology

May 20, 2016

Alberta’s world-renowned Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology is getting even more exciting as it unveils a major new exhibit and a planned $9.3-million expansion, part of the Alberta Jobs Plan.

The new exhibit, Foundations, offers visitors of all ages a dynamic, interactive experience that explores the science of palaeontology and Alberta’s leadership role in the study and preservation of some of the of some of the best fossils in the world.

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The Government of Alberta is making a major $9.3-million investment to expand the Royal Tyrrell Museum facilities, including an additional hands-on learning area, classrooms, and a distance-learning space. The Museum is a key heritage tourism attraction for the province and a significant economic driver for southern Alberta. The expansion will create short- and long-term employment and diversify our economy.

Royal Tyrrell Museum Ext_2015_10_27

“Albertans love the Royal Tyrrell Museum and this new exhibit and expansion are sure to be dino-mite! It is truly a provincial jewel, inspiring young minds and attracting scientists and visitors from all over the world. By making the museum experience even better, the expansion money our government is announcing today will increase visitation, create jobs, and leave a legacy for future generations.”
– Ricardo Miranda, Minister of Culture and Tourism

Foundations will encourage visitors to learn about the basics of palaeontology, geology, evolution, fossilization, and the history of life on Earth. They will witness the breadth and wonder of the Museum’s collection and come to understand Alberta’s critical role in the preservation and scientific study of fossils globally.

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Multimillion-dollar expansion plans underway
Through Capital Plan 2016, the Government of Alberta is investing $9.3 million for the expansion of facilities at the Museum.

“Our government is proud to invest in this world-renowned Museum. When we build, renew and maintain infrastructure such as the Royal Tyrrell Museum, our economy gets a needed boost. Investing in infrastructure also supports jobs and strengthens Alberta’s communities.”
– Brian Mason, Minister of Infrastructure

Funding will go towards:

  • expanding facilities, including the distance learning studios
  • additional classroom and learning space
  • expanding accessible public washroom facilities
  • developing a hands-on discovery room
  • a rest area for the entire family

Construction is expected to begin in the spring of 2017 and be completed in the spring of 2019. The Museum will remain open to the public throughout the construction period.

Royal Tyrrell Museum Discovery 01_2015_10_28

The Royal Tyrrell Museum is recognized globally as a premier research and education centre. It houses one of the world’s largest displays of dinosaurs and is Canada’s only museum dedicated exclusively to the science of palaeontology. Since opening its doors in 1985, the Museum has attracted more than 12 million visitors from around the world.

In 2013, tourism in Alberta generated $8 billion in visitor spending and more than 127,000 jobs.

Foundations Fact Sheet

About the Museum Fact Sheet

Media inquiries:
Carrie-Ann Lunde
Head, Marketing & Public Relations
Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology

One of the most intriguing and enduring aspects of dinosaurs is their extinction at the end of the Cretaceous Period. After decades of research into this topic, most palaeontologists can agree on several details regarding the dinosaur mass-extinction. First, the extinction was due, at least in part, to an asteroid impact with the Earth at the end of the Cretaceous. Second, not all dinosaurs went extinct at the end of the Cretaceous. A group of small, feathered, and very specialized dinosaurs survived, and actually thrived – today we just call these birds.

Despite the relative agreement on these areas, there is still ongoing debate between palaeontologists regarding other aspects of the end-Cretaceous mass extinction. Two of these hotly debated questions include:

  1. Was the dinosaur extinction a sudden, catastrophic event, or were dinosaurs already on the decline prior to the impact?
  2. Why did birds survive the extinction when so many closely related, and very similar, dinosaur groups died out completely?

A new scientific article published today in the journal Current Biology investigates these questions. The scientific team was led by Derek Larson, Assistant Curator at the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum, Wembley, Alberta, who completed the research as a PhD student at the University of Toronto. Also on the team are co-authors Dr. Caleb Brown of the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology, Drumheller, and Dr. David Evans of the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto.

The team concentrated on a group of small meat-eating dinosaurs known as maniraptorans – a group that includes modern birds, and dinosaurs like Velociraptor and Dromaeosaurus. Because these dinosaurs are smaller, rare, and generally more incomplete than their larger counterparts, their response to the end-Cretaceous extinction has been less well-studied. Due to the rarity of well-preserved skeletons, the team decided to use teeth; specifically, they measured the teeth and tracked how they changed through time. These dinosaurs (like sharks today) constantly shed teeth throughout their lifetime, so as a result, one animal could contribute hundreds of teeth to fossil record. Teeth are also very useful, because their shape is related to the diet of the animal. Look at an animal’s teeth, and you get a good idea of what it eats. Despite the rarity of complete skeletons, the team had many teeth to sample, and in the end they were able to measure more than 3,000 teeth from four different groups of maniraptorans. These teeth did not come from one fossil deposit, but actually spanned rocks for the 18 million years preceding the Cretaceous mass-extinction.

Figure 1

Figure 1: Maniraptoran Teeth – This image depicts representative teeth from the four groups of bird-like dinosaurs (including toothed birds) analyzed in this study, with enlarged images of tooth serrations. Scale = 1 mm. Photo credit: Don Brinkman. Modified from Larson et al. 2010. Can. J. Earth Sci. 47: 1159-1181.


The ultimate goal of the project was to assign all of these teeth to successive time bins, and then track how their shape changed through time right up to the extinction event. If these dinosaurs were in steady decline, we would expect the variety of tooth shapes to decrease up to the extinction event, but if the extinction was sudden, the tooth shapes would be relatively constant through time. After crunching the numbers, the end result is that the disparity of the teeth (a fancy way of saying how different they are from each other in terms of shape) shows no decline leading up the extinction event. This means that, at least for the small meat-eating dinosaurs, the extinction was sudden.

Figure 2

Figure 2: Tooth Disparity Through Time – A plot of tooth disparity (shape variation) thought the last 20 million years of the Cretaceous from the four groups of bird-like dinosaurs analyzed in this study. Image credit Larson et al., 2016 Current Biology.

But what does this research say about why birds survived the extinction? After looking at so many teeth, the team realized that the difference might be that those birds that survived the extinction did not have teeth, but had toothless beaks. This means that while most of these small dinosaurs with sharp teeth needed to eat meat regularly, the beaked birds might have been able to eat seeds.

Figure 3

Figure 3: Cretaceous Bird-Like Dinosaurs – A number of bird-like dinosaurs reconstructed in their environment in the Hell Creek Formation at the end of the Cretaceous. Middle ground and background: two different dromaeosaurid species hunting vertebrate prey (a lizard and a toothed bird). Foreground: hypothetical toothless bird closely related to the earliest modern birds. Image credit: Danielle Dufault.

This is important because seeds are very good at lying dormant for long periods of time. If the ecosystems collapsed following the impact, and most resources were limited, there would still have been lots of seeds to eat. The same thing is seen today—when a forest fire clears out a section of forest, the first birds to return to the area are seed-eaters. To test this idea, the team mapped seed-eating diets onto a family tree of birds and showed that many of the bird groups that survived the extinction would likely have had ancestors that ate seeds. Whether or not this idea holds up over time will depend on future scientists finding more fossil birds and testing these ideas.


A link to the press release is available here:

A link to the scientific paper is available here:

Reference: Larson, D.W., Brown, C.M., and Evans, D.C. 2016. Dental disparity and ecological stability in bird-like dinosaurs prior to the end-Cretaceous mass extinction. Current Biology 26, 1–9.


In June of 2015, the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology revealed a new species of horned dinosaur named Regaliceratops peterhewsi, meaning ‘royal horned face,’ a discovery that turned out to be one of the most exciting dinosaur stories of 2015. The dinosaur, a member of the Ceratopsidae family, is notably different from other known relatives in both the size and shape of the horns on its face and a distinctive, crown-like frill at the back of its skull. The beaked, herbivorous dinosaur dates from the Cretaceous Period, a time that saw the highest diversity of ceratopsian dinosaurs. Nicknamed “Hellboy” due to the combination of difficult excavation conditions and hardness of the rock surrounding the skull, this specimen has provided exciting new information about the evolution of horned dinosaurs.

This talk highlights the story behind the discovery and preparation of the skull and illustrates the process involved with the description and naming of this new species. The talk also shows why the horns and frill of this new animal were so surprising, and what this means for the pattern of evolution of the horns and frill in the Ceratopsidae.

The Royal Tyrrell Museum’s Speaker Series talks are free and open to the public. The series will be held every Thursday until April 30, 2015 at 11:00 a.m. in the Museum auditorium.

The Royal Tyrrell Museum is excited to announce some big changes in our galleries. We’re making a mess right now as we prepare to open Foundations, the first new major exhibit at the Museum since 2010.


Opening May 20, 2016, Foundations will provide visitors with background context for the journey through time as they explore the rest of the galleries. It will lay the groundwork for understanding palaeontology, the importance of Alberta’s fossils, and the Museum’s role in protecting and preserving Alberta’s rich fossil resources.

Working behind the scenes are project managers, curators, preparators, collections staff, interpretive content providers, fabricators, exhibit and graphic designers, marketers, and members of the management team. This new exhibit will use unique specimens to present the story of life on Earth, how geological and biological processes have shaped our world, and how life has found a way to survive several mass extinctions throughout its 3.9-billion-year-history.


Here is a sneak peek at how our new exhibit will look. Using Sketch-Up , our exhibit designers  lay out how the displays will be constructed to unfold the story. Sketches show visitor flow, preliminary design ideas, and interactive components that will be incorporated into the exhibit.

Interactive components such as a 4D globe, touch specimens, videos, and “the jacket lifting” game will enhance the visitor experience. Foundations will also give visitors a sense of the scope of the research that Museum scientists conduct and reasons why it is important to study the plants and animals found in the extensive fossil record.

Royal Tyrrell Museum - panorama

Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology has been recognized as a winner in the 2015 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice™ awards for museums, ranking second out of 10 across Canada. TripAdvisor has highlighted the world’s top museums based on the quantity and quality of reviews and ratings for museums worldwide, gathered over a 12-month period.

The Royal Tyrrell Museum celebrates the rich historical presence that each one of these Museums contributes to their communities, and would like to congratulate each of the winners in the top 10 category.

The Museums who ranked in the top ten were:

1st Royal BC Museum

2nd Royal Tyrrell Museum

3rd Canadian War Museum

4th Royal Ontario Museum

5th The AGO, Art Gallery of Ontario

6th Prime Berth Fishing Museum

7th Stones ‘n Bones Museum

8th Museum of Anthropology

9th Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (Musee des Beaux-Arts)

10th Canadian Children’s Museum

“These world-class museums provide an enriching experience that can be both inspiring and educational for travelers around the globe,” said Barbara Messing, chief marketing officer for TripAdvisor.

“Here at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology we strive to give our visitors a great educational experience in a safe and welcoming environment. Thank you to all of you who have included the RTMP in your vacation plans and especially those who gave us a positive review. Congratulations to all our colleagues across the country and keep up the great work everyone,” said Andrew Newman, Executive Director for the Royal Tyrrell Museum.

To see TripAdvisor traveller reviews and opinions of the Museum, go to

Illustration by © JULIUS T. CSOTONYI

Illustration by © JULIUS T. CSOTONYI

A new paper published this month in PeerJ biological and medical sciences journal describes a specimen of the small pterosaur (flying reptile) Rhamphorhynchus. The specimen is noteworthy due to the spectacular preservation of soft tissue, stomach contents, and what’s considered to be coprolite (fossilized poop).

Research featured in the journal was the collaborative effort of Drs. David Hone (Queen Mary University of London), Donald M. Henderson and François Therrien (Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology) and Michael B. Habib (Natural History Museum of Los Angeles).

Numerous pterosaur specimens had been found previously, preserving fish remains in their gut, indicating these animals lived near water bodies and fed on fishes.  This particular Rhamphorhynchus specimen is the first to preserve the remains of a fish, shark, and potential tetrapod (i.e., a four-legged animal) in its stomach, and a coprolite filled with strange hooklets. Although the identities of the material preserved in the stomach and coprolite could not be determined, they reveal that Rhamphorhynchus did not feed exclusively on fish. This spectacular specimen gives researchers unique insight into dietary and ecological traits of this small Late Jurassic pterosaur.

The specimen is housed at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology in Midland Provincial Park, Alberta.


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