Dinosaur Provincial Park and the Centrosaurus Bone Bed
One of the world's great sources of dinosaur fossils is Dinosaur Provincial Park
in southeastern Alberta, Canada. The park, encompassing a region of rugged and
beautiful badlands, has yielded many spectacular finds from the Cretaceous period,
about 65-70 million years ago, the last period of the dinosaurs.
While only credentialed scientists may freely roam the backcountry, there are several
guided tours offered to casual visitors. The Centrosaurus Bone Bed Hike provides
the tourist a chance to see this backcountry and enjoy a rare opportunity to
view dinosaur bones in a natural setting while hearing a fascinating story of
The Centrosaurus (shown left) was a member of the ceratopsian family. Its much
more famous relative, the triceratops, also roamed the park.
The Centrosaurus Bone Bed occupies an area about the size of a football field.
For the most part, there are bits and pieces of bone fragments scattered about
with a few larger pieces (picture above right). There is one area, about 10 yards square, which
has been worked on by palaeontologists, where the massive collection of bones is quite obvious (picture below right).
What makes the story interesting is that all of the bones here belong to
Centrosaurus, and that most of the bones are in fragments. Also, it was determined
that an ancient river bed ran through this site. The palaeonologists
studied the site for ten years and theorized the following story: The Centrosaurus,
traveling in a large herd, attempted to cross the river while it was in flood.
(Scientists can observe this herd behavior today in Africa.)
Many of the animals drowned and washed up on an adjacent sandbar, now the site
of the bone bed. Predators then had a field day, ripping the carcasses apart.
The remains were eventually covered over by sand and preserved, resulting in
today's fossil bone bed.
The study of this site contributed to the now generally accepted idea that
many dinosaurs traveled in great herds. An outstanding detective story.
At left is a photo from the partially excavated bone bed. It covers an area
about 5 yards across.
Right, a nearby rock is covered with small artifacts left by passers-by
for the benefit of future visitors.
The Royal Tyrell Museum
The Royal Tyrell Museum is located about 90
minutes northwest of the park, in Drumheller, Alberta. While less well known
than some of world-famous museums (it is fairly new) the quality of its exhibits
and works is definitely world-class.
The Museum staff performs ongoing research at Dinosaur Provincial Park and maintains
a field station and exhibits at the park. All fossils collected at the park are
catalogued and curated at the museum.
Below and right are ceratopsian skeletons on display at the museum.
At right is a triceratops.
Left, an Albertasaurus (a relative of the t-rex) hovers over a fallen
Right, a Chasmosaurus.