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This Headless Dinosaur Skeleton Finally Reunites With Its Skull After Nearly a Century

Apr 27, 2017 11:57 AM EDT
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Researchers from the University of Alberta found that the headless dinosaur skeleton at Dinosaur Provincial Park in Southern Alberta and the dinosaur skull stored in the university's Paleontology Museum actually belonged together.

Their discovery, described in a paper published in the journal Cretaceous Research, shows that it's very common for some parts of a dinosaur fossil to be dug up in different time, taking several years apart. In the case of the headless dinosaur skeleton in the Dinosaur Provincial Park, it took nearly a century before scientists can match it to a Corythosaurus skull.

"In the early days of dinosaur hunting and exploration, explorers only took impressive and exciting specimens for their collections, such as skulls, tail spines and claws," explained Katherine Bramble, a graduate student at the University of Alberta and lead author of the study, in a press release. "Now, it's common for paleontologists to come across specimens in the field without their skulls."

The dinosaur skull was discovered and collected by George Sternberg in the early 1920s. The researchers noted that the explorer during this era only paid much attention to important parts of skeletons, a process known as head hunting. The skull was later on used as a holotype of a new hadrosaur species known as Corythosaurus excavatus.

In 1992, paleontologists found a previously uncovered, weathered, headless skeleton. The headless skeleton became a tourist attraction in Dinosaur Provincial Park. A group of scientists noticed that there are newspaper clippings dating back to the 1920s in the debris near the site where the skeleton was found. This made the researchers wonder if the headless dinosaur skeleton could be a part of the skull at the University of Alberta.

The researchers collected the headless dinosaur skeleton in 2012. Using statistical analysis and anatomical measurements of the skull and skeleton, the researchers confirmed that the headless skeleton and the skull actually belong to the same dinosaur.

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