Bones found almost 50 years recognized as B.C.’s first dinosaur species

Bones found almost 50 years recognized as B.C.’s first dinosaur species

VICTORIA — A geologist’s discovery of a mysterious claw in rocks along a rail line in British Columbia’s northern wilderness almost 50 years ago has led to the recognition of the first dinosaur species unique to the province.

Nicknamed Buster, the partial bones, which included toes, shins and shoulder bones, formed the evidence to officially designate a new dinosaur species that roamed the province more than 67 million years ago, says Victoria Arbour, the Royal B.C. Museum’s curator of paleontology.

The dinosaur’s species name, Ferrisaurus sustutensis, means the iron lizard from the Sustut River, Arbour said. It was discovered on a rail line along the Sustut River north of Smithers.

“I think it’s really exciting that Ferrisaurus is a new species from B.C. because B.C. isn’t a place that is really well-known for dinosaur fossils,” she said. “It really highlights there’s a lot of potential for even more dinosaur discoveries down the road if we look hard enough.”

Arbour said she and colleagues spent years examining the bones before publishing their finding on Thursday in The Journal of Life and Environmental Sciences.

“We don’t have any parts of the skull but we know, based on the bones we do have, that it was part of the same group of dinosaurs called the leptoceratopsids,” she said in an interview at the museum where the new dinosaur discovery is part of a free public display called B.C.’s Mountain Dinosaur.

“They are little cousins of the more famous dinosaurs like Triceratops,” said Arbour. “They had a parrot-like beak, a very short frill and no horns on the face. They were plant eaters and probably walked on four legs but might have been able to get around on two legs sometimes.”

Ferrisaurus was about 1.75 metres long and likely weighed about 150 kilograms. She described the dinosaur as similar in size to a large wild boar or a bighorn sheep. Arbour said she suspects Ferrisaurus was prey for many of the large meat-eating dinosaurs, including the notorious Tyrannosaurus rex.

Arbour led an expedition in 2017 to the Sustut River site where the bones were discovered and found new fossils, including plants and part of a turtle.

Arbour said the province’s rugged terrain is a major reason why dinosaur bone discoveries, other than in northeast B.C., are rare compared with Alberta and Saskatchewan where there are large areas of flat land and exposed rocky zones.

She is planning to return to the Sustut River area in the summer to look for more dinosaur fossils.

Arbour said she originally encountered the bones in Nova Scotia as a student at Dalhousie University. She said the man who found the bones, Kenny Larsen, kept them for years but eventually donated them to the university.

The bones then made their way from Nova Scotia to the Royal B.C. Museum where Arbour was later hired as curator of paleontology and embarked on her dinosaur species discovery.

“Before it had a scientific name, and we were pretty sure it was a new species, we needed something to call it and Buster seemed to be a good fit for a couple of old bones from the Sustut River,” said Arbour.

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

Just Posted

Alberta is on pace to administer more than 300,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses per week, according to the provincial government. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
One million COVID-19 vaccine doses administered in Alberta

Alberta hit a milestone in the fight against COVID-19 this week. As… Continue reading

(Government of Canada)
Liberal MP caught stark naked during House of Commons video conference

William Amos, in Quebec, appeared on the screens of his fellow members of Parliament completely naked

Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre’s expansion project is still a high priority, says Alberta Infrastructure Minister Prasad Panda. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Interior work will start this year on Red Deer hospital project, says infrastructure minister

‘We are committed. This is a top priority,’ says Presad Panda

Even with recent restrictions due to rising COVID-19 variant case levels, about 95 per cent of businesses are open in Alberta, said Premier Jason Kenney. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Consistent pandemic policy has helped Alberta, premier says

Alberta fatality rate lower than Canadian average

Richie Laryea of Toronto FC, left, and Jean Meneses of Mexico's Leon battle for the ball during a CONCACAF Champions League soccer match in Leon, Mexico, in Leon, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. Toronto FC hosts Club Leon in the second leg of their Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League round-of-16 tie holding a valuable away goal after a 1-1 draw last week in Mexico. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Mario Armas
Injury-riddled Toronto FC dispatches Club Leon in CONCACAF Champions League play

Injury-riddled Toronto FC dispatches Club Leon in CONCACAF Champions League play

Winnipeg Jets' Dylan DeMelo (2) skates the puck around Ottawa Senators' Thomas Chabot (72) as he holds off Winnipeg Jets' Mason Appleton (22) during first-period NHL action in Ottawa on Wednesday, April 14, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Winnipeg Jets score two third-period goals to secure 3-2 victory over Ottawa Senators

Winnipeg Jets score two third-period goals to secure 3-2 victory over Ottawa Senators

Toronto Raptors forward Chris Boucher (25) shoots over San Antonio Spurs forward Keldon Johnson (3) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 14, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Anunoby, Siakam rally Raptors past Spurs 117-112

Anunoby, Siakam rally Raptors past Spurs 117-112

John Furlong pitches a broader B.C. bid for 2030 Winter Games

John Furlong pitches a broader B.C. bid for 2030 Winter Games

New York Yankees starting pitcher Corey Kluber throws against the Toronto Blue Jays during the first inning of a baseball game Wednesday, April 14, 2021, in Dunedin, Fla. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)
Bichette hits 2nd homer in 9th, Blue Jays beat Yankees 5-4

Bichette hits 2nd homer in 9th, Blue Jays beat Yankees 5-4

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Luguentz Dort (5) goes to the basket as Utah Jazz forward Jarrell Brantley (5) defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, April 13, 2021, in Salt Lake City. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Rick Bowmer
Undrafted Montreal native Dort continues to smash “glass ceilings” in NBA

Undrafted Montreal native Dort continues to smash “glass ceilings” in NBA

A man wearing a protective mask to help curb the spread of the coronavirus walks past banners for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo, Wednesday, April 14, 2021, to mark 100 days before the start of the Summer Games. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Eugene Hoshiko
Rings on the Horizon: Tokyo Summer Olympics hit 100 days out marker

Rings on the Horizon: Tokyo Summer Olympics hit 100 days out marker

Lethbridge Police Chief Shahin Mehdizadeh speaks during a news conference in Lethbridge, Alta., on Wednesday, March 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/David Rossiter
‘Right path:’ Lethbridge police release improvement plan in wake of controversies

‘Right path:’ Lethbridge police release improvement plan in wake of controversies

Most Read