A 12-year-old boy from Calgary, Alberta, Canada, made a very significant 69-million-year-old discovery. Nathan Hrushkin was out fossil hunting with his father Dion in the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s Nodwell property at Horseshoe Canyon (not far from Drumheller, Alberta) in July of this year when he unearthed a dinosaur fossil belonging to a hadrosaur.
Nathan and his dad have been visiting the site for several years, always looking for interesting fossils. “I never expected to find (anything) significant like this,” Dion said, adding, “But we always hoped we’d come across a tooth or a bone fragment or something just to keep (Nathan) interested in geology and keep him interested in being outside.”
Nathan said that he and his father will continue to search for fossils and that he’s very interested in this type of work. “I’ve been aspiring to be a palaeontologist for pretty much as long as I can remember,” he said, “so it’s pretty amazing to finally find something real that’s like big.”
And he certainly seems to know quite a bit about the type of dinosaur fossil that he found. “I know that it’s more commonly known as the duck-billed dinosaur,” he said, adding, “They have the bills almost like ducks and they’re herbivores and they stand on two feet – that sort of thing.”
Many fossils belonging to hadrosaurs have been discovered in Alberta’s Badlands (the most common of the fossils found) but this one was very significant as not many juvenile dinosaur skeletons have been found in addition to it being located in the rock formation which is also quite rare.
Carys Richards, who is the communications manager with the Nature Conservancy of Canada, reiterated how important Nathan’s discovery was, “This is very significant for the Nature Conservancy of Canada because when we talk about land conservation we talk often about the benefit for future generations but this is a really good opportunity to point out how conserving important landscapes also help us unearth mysteries of our planet’s history.”
According to Francois Therrien, who is the curator of dinosaur palaeontology at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology, hadrosaurs were very common millions of years ago and could grow as large as 10 to 13 meters in length (33 to 43 feet). But since the fossil that Nathan discovered was a juvenile, it was probably only around 3 to 4 meters long (10 to 13 feet).
“So Nathan’s discovery is actually significant because it starts to fill in that gap,” Therrien explained. “It’s a fossil from that area and from that time interval that will actually give us information about what was happening with dinosaurs 69 million years ago.”
The bones are currently in protective plaster jackets and are being relocated from the canyon to the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller where experts will analyze them. A video of Nathan and his discovery can be viewed here.