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Massive dinosaur skull found in Canada

  • Darla Zelenitsky, assistant professor at the University of Calgary, with a gargantuan pachyrhinosaur skull she found last year in the Alberta Badlands.University of Calgary

  • An artist's sketch of a pachyrhinosaur, a four-legged horned herbivore that lived about 70 million years ago.University of Calgary

The nearly complete skull of a horned dinosaur well over 6 feet in length was discovered in the Alberta Badlands, scientists announced Thursday.

The gargantuan pachyrhinosaur skull was found by last year by Darla Zelenitsky, assistant professor at the University of Calgary, and a research assistant, and unveiled today during an event at the University of Calgary.

"It is very rare to find such a complete skull specimen of this size in the region," Zelenitsky said in a press release announcing the find. "Based on our preliminary estimates, the dinosaur's head would have been well over 2 meters [6 feet] long and was likely of a mature or older individual. The skull of this animal has an enormous bony structure over the snout that would have made for a very strange-looking individual."

'It has an enormous bony structure over the snout that would have made for a very strange-looking individual.'

- Darla Zelenitsky, assistant professor at the University of Calgary

Pachyrhinosaurs, as seen in the recent movie Walking with Dinosaurs, were four-legged horned herbivores that lived about 70 million years ago in what is now Alberta and Alaska. The lumbering beasts grew to over 20 feet in length, and large bony bumps, horns, and a frill covered its head and neck.

Following the discovery, Zelenitsky and her research group removed five to six tons of rock over 10 days to extract the skull from Alberta's Badlands. The past several months were spent preparing it in the laboratory in order to carefully remove the rock encasing the bone.

"So far, the upper part of the skull has been exposed and the skull will be flipped over to prepare the lower part, including the jaws," Zelenitsky said. "There are still many months of work necessary in order to clean the entire skull."

After the skull has been completely cleaned, it will be studied further.

"This discovery will certainly add to our understanding of the biology of pachyrhinosaurs," she said.

The specimen will eventually go on display at the University of Calgary.