Nathan Hrushkin, left, helps Francois Therrien, curator of dinosaur paleoecology at the Royal Tyrrell Museum, assemble a plaster cast onto a fossilized dinosaur bone, which was discovered by Hrushkin in the Horseshoe Valley of southern Alberta in an undated handout photo. Experts say the 12-year-old Calgary boy’s discovery will fill a significant gap in their knowledge of dinosaur evolution. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Dion Hrushkin, *MANDATORY CREDIT*

Nathan Hrushkin, left, helps Francois Therrien, curator of dinosaur paleoecology at the Royal Tyrrell Museum, assemble a plaster cast onto a fossilized dinosaur bone, which was discovered by Hrushkin in the Horseshoe Valley of southern Alberta in an undated handout photo. Experts say the 12-year-old Calgary boy’s discovery will fill a significant gap in their knowledge of dinosaur evolution. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Dion Hrushkin, *MANDATORY CREDIT*

‘Discovery by little Nathan:’ Boy, 12, finds fossil of duck-billed dinosaur in Alberta

Nathan and his dad have learned that the bone belonged to a young hadrosaur

Aspiring paleontologist Nathan Hrushkin speaks with pride about his “killer resume.”

The Grade 7 student from Calgary discovered a rare dinosaur skeleton earlier this year at Horseshoe Canyon in the Badlands region of southeastern Alberta.

It’s a significant find that one expert says fills a gap in the knowledge of dinosaur evolution.

“I really wanted to be a paleontologist before (and) now that I’ve found something already, at only 12 years old … I’d have a pretty killer resume,” Nathan said with a laugh during a phone interview.

He said he was on a hike with his father and a few friends on a sunny, hot day in late June, when he saw a bone protruding from the ground.

“The first thing I said was, ‘Oh my God, Dad. You need to get up here!’”

After emailing photos of the discovery to the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology in Drumheller, Alta., Nathan and his dad learned that the bone belonged to a young hadrosaur, also known as a duck-billed dinosaur because its pointed snout is similar to a duck’s.

Hadrosaurs could grow up to 13 metres long and roamed Alberta while triceratopses and tyrannosaurs ruled the Earth, said François Therrien, curator of dinosaur paleoecology at the Royal Tyrrell Museum, who responded to Nathan’s’ email

Therrien said the three- to four-year-old hadrosaur lived about 69 million years ago. It’s a time period experts don’t know much about “in terms of dinosaurs living here in Canada and even in the western interior of North America,” said Therrien

“We have very little information about what’s going on … that discovery by little Nathan is of great significance. Because it is one more piece to that puzzle.”

Therrien said the find can help archeologists learn more about, not just the evolution of dinosaurs, but also how they responded to their changing climate and environment.

“I’m really excited because that time interval in the Earth’s history is a time of important environmental and climatic changes. There’s periods of rapid cooling, rapid warming, dropping rainfall, more humid conditions.

“My interest is figuring out what’s happening to the animals during that time, especially dinosaurs. How are they faring with those periods of global climatic changes?”

On Thursday, Nathan and his dad were to join Therrien and his team in extracting the final pieces of the approximately three-metre-long hadrosaur, including its partial skull. The pieces are to be placed in protective jackets made of burlap and plaster and sent to the museum’s lab for cleaning and research.

The Nature Conservancy of Canada said that since Nathan’s find, paleontologists have uncovered between 30 and 50 bones in the canyon’s wall.

Therrien said the youngster’s response to the discovery is a textbook example of what the public should do when they come across fossils, bones and other skeletons in the area — contact the museum.

As for Nathan, he said working with Therrien has helped him discover a lot about himself, too.

His love for dinosaurs had made it difficult for him to choose a favourite.

Now, he says, it’s a juvenile hadrosaur.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Fakiha Baig, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Science

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Map of positive COVID-19 cases for Jan. 3 to 9 by local health area. (BCCDC)
Agassiz-Harrison area sees 19 COVID-19 cases in seven days

The local health area has seen around one in every 500 people test positive from Jan. 3 to 9

One of the two barn owls currently taking up residence on Miel Bernstein’s Agassiz property. (Contributed)
Agassiz farm asks residents to help protect barn owls

Rat poison is one of the main killers of barn owls; avoiding it one of the easiest ways to save them

(Black Press file photo)
Highway 3 cleared, open after vehicle incident

The road was closed for about three hours earlier on Jan. 18

/ Kevin Mills Photo
Thousands participate in solidarity parade for transgender student who was bullied

Cars, horses and even planes passed by the Mission waterfront to show support

Kent Search and Rescue sent down three rescuers
UPDATE: Two people involved in ATV rollover 100 feet down ravine in Harrison, at least one injured

Incident happened shortly before 5 p.m. on Harrison East Forest Service Road

A scene from “Canada and the Gulf War: In their own words,” a video by The Memory Project, a program of Historica Canada, is shown in this undated illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Historica Canada
New video marks Canada’s contributions to first Gulf War on 30th anniversary

Veterans Affairs Canada says around 4,500 Canadian military personnel served during the war

Powell River-Sunshine Coast MLA Nicholas Simons was appointed to the NDP cabinet as minister of social development and poverty reduction after the October 2020 B.C. election. (Hansard TV)
B.C. job training fund increased for developmentally disabled

COVID-19 has affected 1,100 ‘precariously employed’ people

B.C. driver’s licence and identity cards incorporate medical services, but the passport option for land crossings is being phased out. (B.C. government)
B.C. abandons border ID cards built into driver’s licence

$35 option costing ICBC millions as demand dwindles

BC Emergency Health Services has deployed the Major Incident Response Team (MIRRT) as COVID-19 positive cases rise in the Williams Lake region. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
B.C.’s rapid response paramedics deployed to Williams Lake as COVID-19 cases climb

BC Emergency Health Services has sent a Major Incident Rapid Response Team to the lakecity

(Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
RCMP say ice climber seriously injured after reportedly falling 12 metres near Abraham Lake

Police say man’s injuries were serious but not life-threatening

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The RCMP was called to a condo complex in Langley City in the early hours of Jan. 18, 2021, for a shooting. (Shane Mackichan/Special to the Langley Advance Times)
27-year-old taken to hospital after overnight targeted shooting in Langley

RCMP have not confirmed the incident is link to the Lower Mainland gang conflict

U.S. military units march in front of the Capitol, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021 in Washington, as they rehearse for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony, which will be held at the Capitol on Wednesday. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Biden aims for unifying speech at daunting moment for U.S.

President Donald Trump won’t be there to hear it

Most Read