Saturday, February 23, 2013


One hundred years ago
in the badlands of Canada...

Last fall, I saw this spectacular display at the Natural History Museum of Utah (Salt Lake City, Utah):

Ceratopsian skull display at the Natural History Museum of Utah.
Source:  Wikimedia Commons

On the lower left, that particularly awesome skull with the multi-spiked neck fringe belonged to a Styracosaurus, discovered and identified 100 years ago in 1913.

Styracosaurus fossils at the American
Museum of Natural History.
Source: Wikimedia Commons
Charles M. Sternberg, part of an illustrious family of fossil hunters, was busy in 1913 unearthing dinosaur bones in the badlands of Alberta, Canada, along the Red Deer River between Steveville and Deadlodge Canyon, a location now known as the Dinosaur Park Formation in Dinosaur Provincial Park. Along with his father and brother, Sternberg found two Corythosaurus skeletons, a Gorgosaurus, a Chasmosaurus, and a curious multi-spiked neck fringe and skull that they sent off for identification.

Based largely on the skull fossil, geologist and paleontologist Lawrence Lambe decided this must be a new genus of dinosaur, specifically identifying it as Styracosaurus (“Spiked Reptile”) albertensis (“of Alberta”). Many more Styracosaurus fossils have been discovered since then, indicating that they roamed the land that is now western Canada and the United States.

Styracosaurus lived in the late Cretaceous period, the last gasp of dinosaur supremacy before dino-Armageddon hit. Many paleontologists conjecture that these great horned dinosaurs traveled in herds. Their horns and frills certainly look like lethal weapons for defending themselves against T. Rex and other carnivorous pests, but nobody knows for sure.

Based on memories of a matinee seen at the age of nine, munching popcorn while cowboys wrangled dinosaurs, my image of Styracosaurus will forever be anchored in the great Styracosaurus-Allosaurus battle brought to life by Ray Harryhausen in The Valley of Gwangi (1969).  This, folks, is a Styracosaurus!

© 2013 Lee Price

No comments:

Post a Comment