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Reunited with his own head – how come that a dinosaur lost his head for almost a century?

Posted April 28, 2017

Would you want to be separated from your head for almost a century? Well, one dinosaur skeleton lived this way for a very long time. But now finally the two parts are reconnected. Interestingly, even without its head dinosaur managed to become a quite popular tourist attraction at Dinosaur Provincial Park in Canada. But why did it lose its head in the first place?

This is how full Corythosaurus skeleton looks like at the Royal Ontario Museum. The one in Alberta didn’t have a skull for almost a century. Image credit: Daderot via Wikimedia

In the first half of 20th century dinosaur hunting was much different. Scientists were rushing to make discoveries as soon as possible, to speed up the process of scientific exploration of the lost era. However, many of them did not have that much of scientific interest in the subject. They wanted to be famous or to have impressive pieces in their collections. You see where this is going?

Now it is actually quite common for palaeontologists to come across a dinosaur skeleton without skull somewhere, where diggings were already completed almost a century ago. And so some skeletons were dug out and are now showed to the public. Corythosaurus skeleton has been a tourist attraction in Dinosaur Provincial Park since the 1990s – it never had a head. However, some scientists found some newspaper clipping, which indicated that skull at the University of Alberta and the headless dinosaur may actually be related.

Scientists took some anatomic measurements and found that they do match. Results are not definitive, but all clues are pointing this way. So in 2012 skull and skeleton were reunited and are now living at the University of Alberta. Scientists say that it is not the only such case and more of them are likely to emerge in the future.

Katherine Bramble, one of the scientists involved in reuniting dinosaurs skull with its skeleton, said: “Researchers are now trying to develop new ways of determining whether or not disparate parts of skeletons come from the same animal. For this paper, we used anatomical measurements, but there are many other ways of matching, such as conducting a chemical analysis of the rock in which the specimens are found”. As some universities have skulls and others have headless skeletons, it is likely that more of these reunifications are going to happen.

Scientists say that they are happy that skeletons become complete again. Palaeontologists are searching for new examples much differently now and every single bit is cherished as a very significant one. Hopefully, generations of scientists that will come after us will not have to fix our mistakes like this.


Source: University of Alberta

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