A dome-headed dinosaur skull found in southern Alberta is helping scientists rethink some of their ideas about dinosaurs.
The skull was found in 2008 by a team of scientists led by Dr. David Evans of the Royal Ontario Museum.
The skull is about 85 million years old.
The top of the skull is made of a dome-shaped mass of solid bone about 10 centimetres thick. This means the dinosaur belonged to a group of dinosaurs called pachycephalosaurs (“thick-headed lizards”).
The scientists compared the skull to all of the known pachycephalosaur specimens in the world – about 600 of them. They learned that there are 16 different species within that group, and the skull discovered in Alberta belongs to a species that has never been seen before.
They also learned that it was the oldest dome-headed dinosaur specimen found in North America and possibly the world.
The skull was also special because it belonged to a small dinosaur. It weighed around 40 kilograms and was about as tall as a large dog.
Dr. Evans said paleontologists don’t find many fossils from smaller dinosaurs. This may mean that there were fewer small dinosaurs than large ones. Or it may be because small dinosaur skeletons were destroyed by weather or other animals before they could become fossils. This skull likely survived because of the thickness of the hard bone on top.
Dr. Evans said this discovery suggests there may have been more diversity among dinosaurs than scientists have believed.
The scientific name of the new species is Acrotholus audeti. Acrotholus is a Greek word meaning “high dome.” Audeti is from the name of the rancher who owned the land where the scientists found the fossil, Roy Audit.
Wikipedia’s Pachycephalosaurus page.
Science Daily; facts about dinosaurs
Interactive kids’ website about dinosaurs, The Dinosaurs.org.
By Jonathan Tilly
Today’s article provides several reasons why scientists don’t often find small dinosaur fossils. What other reasons can you think of that might explain why this is so? Make a list and order them from most likely to least likely. Compare your list to a friend’s and explore/discuss the similarities and differences.
Reading Prompt: Analysing Texts
How does the usage of proper scientific words and terminology help or hinder your understanding of today’s texts. Why might an author choose to include difficult terms in scientific articles?
Identify specific elements of texts and explain how they contribute to the meaning of the texts (OME, Reading: 1.7).
Analyse texts and explain how various elements in them contribute to meaning (OME, Reading: 1.7).
Analyse a variety of texts, both simple and complex, and explain how the different elements in them contribute to meaning and influence the reader’s reaction (OME, Reading: 1.7).
Grammar Feature: Italics
Italics are a type of font that appears slanted. Authors use italics to communicate many different things. For example, when an author writes in another language, he or she will often choose to use italics in order to alert the reader and let them know that the following words are foreign. It is for this reason that the words, “pachycephalosaurs” and “Acrotholus audeti” appear in italics in today’s article.
When might be another circumstance in which an author would want to alert their reader? Would using italics be helpful in this situation?