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Construction workers find dinosaur fossils in Leduc
By Matt Dykstra ,Edmonton Sun
First posted: Wednesday, November 06, 2013 04:56 PM EST | Updated: Wednesday, November 06, 2013 06:04 PM EST
EDMONTON Paleontologists from the Royal Tyrrell Museum have confirmed that bones discovered by a construction crew working on a new housing development in Leduc, Alta., are dinosaur fossils.
The dinosaur bones were found six metres below the surface on Oct. 23 by the Degner Construction Group, and experts believe they are from a large duck-billed dinosaur called a hypacrosaurus.
Jim Schmitz, site supervisor for Degner, said the crew was digging a storm sewer when one of the workers noticed what looked like a vertebrae embedded in the rock.
"Occasionally, in the excavation business, you do come across bones, but usually its a skeleton of a horse or something, but this was clearly something really old," said Schmitz.
"The guys were pretty pumped up about it once we were sure what it was."
Work on the storm sewer stopped for a day and half while museum paleontologists examined the bones, said Schmitz. The excavation took two weeks and when it was time to get the bones out of the ground, Degner workers lent a hand by using their excavators instead of the paleontologists' chisels and hammers.
"It was kind of awesome, to tell you the truth," smiled Schmitz. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
Francois Therrien, curator of dinosaur paleoecology at the Royal Tyrrell Museum, said the bones arrived Tuesday and, so far, the dinosaur's tail, hip bones and a portion of its skull has been identified.
"The skeleton is nearly complete," said Therrien, noting Alberta is "prime time real estate" for dinosaur fossil discoveries.
"Some of the bones have been scattered around, possibly by a river that flowed in the Leduc area during the late Cretaceous period. Some of the bones, like the hands and feet, may have been lost but it looks like the skull is there."
Therrien, who's work in paleoecology attempts to reconstruct the dinosaur ecosystems of the past, said the discovery is exciting because little is known about the dinosaurs that lived in the Leduc area.
"We could be dealing with a new species altogether but regardless, even if it's a species that was previously known, it's going to be filling in a gap in our understanding of the late-Cretaceous world here in Alberta."
"It has great potential to answer many questions."
The fossils will be stored in the museum's collections until it is prepared for further study.
matthew.dykstra@sunmedia.ca
Twitter: @SunMattDykstra
Workers at a housing development in Leduc, Alta., south of Edmonton, uncovered what paleontologists from the Royal Tyrell Museum believe is a hadrosaur fossil, a duck-billed dinosaur, that lived about 68 million years ago. Photo Courtesy/ Royal Tyrell Museum

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