Curator Lisa Buckley explains that the hadrosaur, or duck-billed dinosaur, weighs around 4,400 pounds wrapped in plaster, which would collapse the floor of the current museum.
“If we bring it in right now, it’s going to go through the floor,” she explains. “So we’re getting a sturdy collections building built alongside the museum for things like bringing in the duck-billed dinosaur so we can actually start the cleaning work on it and for bringing in a lot of the other big specimens that we’ve come across in this region that right now are either sitting outside or we have them stashed away.”
Buckley and her team have spent the last four to five years excavating the dinosaur’s bones, which include everything from the base of its tail, hips with a leg bone attached, and the back bone up to about the shoulder region. About four to five metres is preserved, when the entire animal would have been around 10 metres long when it was alive approximately 74 million years ago.
Unfortunately, its head has not yet been located, but there’s still a possibility it could be found nearby. Other parts of the hadrosaur were found in the area and are already on display in the museum, along with some tyrannosaur teeth, from those that likely feasted on the duck-billed dinosaur after its death.
“We have a pretty good idea that our poor duck-billed dinosaur after it died was visited by a lot of hungry Albertosaurus,” argues Buckley. “It looks like the bones that were pulled off of the body, they didn’t move them too far away, so if the head was still with the body when they came across it, it’s very likely that they just pulled it off a few metres away from the body and we just haven’t uncovered that specific part of the quarry yet.”
Trying to find the skull is just one of the future plans for the palaeontology team. Six femurs have been found in the dinosaur bone bed discovered near Tumbler Ridge in 2007, evidence that there’s more than one animal buried at the site. That work will also take time, along with much fundraising for the research and field work.
Next for the hadrosaur, which is currently sitting outside the Centre on a trailer, is to find it a temporary storage space until the collections building is finished. It’s expected that will be done sometime in 2014, at which time the estimated two year process of getting the fossils ready will begin.