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Geotourism, in the land of the dinosaurs

Thu 16 June 2016

Category: Travel


Dinosaur Provincial Park & The Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology

Article by Stephen Pickering

I expect many of you may have seen the 1960 movie Lost World starring Michael Rennie, based on the book written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in 1912, it depicts a land in which dinosaurs roam freely and you might think it is slightly melodramatic and not particularly authentic. Well if you want to see the real Jurassic world, and Cretaceous for that matter, I suggest a visit to see the Dinosaur Provincial Park (a UNESCO World Heritage site) and the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology at Drumheller, in the badlands of Alberta, Canada.
Drumheller lies about 80 miles northeast of Canada’s oil capital Calgary and is certainly worth visiting whenever you get to go to Canada. The badlands which are cut by the Red Deer River and its tributaries includes numerous canyons, mesas and hoodoos. The clastic sediments in the Dinosaur Park are late Cretaceous in age and include the Oldman, Dinosaur Park and Bearpaw Formations in which are abundant fossil remains of fish, amphibians and spectacular dinosaurs. The latter include hadrosaurs, ankylosaurs, stegosaurs, and tyrannosaurs including Albertosaurus sarcophagus which was first discovered by geologist Joseph Tyrrell in 1884. To date more than forty specimens of Albertosaurus sp. have been excavated, the species being much smaller than Tyrannosaurus rex it weighed about two tons but was just as ferocious.
Located in Drumheller is the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology, which exhibits dinosaurs and other fossils from not just the Dinosaur Provincial Park but from throughout the world, and including exhibits from the entire geologic column. The presentations focused on dinosaurs are superb with dioramas and reconstructed fossil skeletons of dinosaurs arranged in chronological order (or should I say stratigraphic sequence). The exhibits are not just dinosaurs, other exhibits include; “Lords of the Land” a diorama of the most dangerous theropods, and exhibits covering topics such as the Burgess Shale, and marine reptiles. A window into the “Preparation Lab” allows visitors to watch technicians as they prepare fossils for research and exhibition. I particularly liked the fossil dinosaur eggs though I confess they were a bit too large for my egg cup.
I personally believe the Royal Tyrrell is one of the great museums of geology and certainly worth a visit by any geoscientist.

fig2Albertosaurus sarcophagus with attitude

fig3Preparation laboratory

fig4Now where did Steven Spielberg get the idea for Jurassic Park!


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