The skull Canadian dinosaur Pachyrhinosaurus canadensis in the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum lab.
Photo courtesy of Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum
Canada Day is quickly approaching, and it’s an appropriate time to celebrate living in one of the most dinosaur-rich countries in the world. A generous number of fossil animal species have been found in this country, particularly in our province of Alberta. It’s not uncommon for scientists to name newly discovered species after the place they came from, and there’s a myriad of fossil animals named after Canada and the locations and people within it. Let’s look at a few now.Sadly, as of yet, there isn’t a ‘Canadasaurus’, though perhaps paleontologists will get on that one day. There are, however, a few fossil reptiles who are named for the country in the ‘species’ or second part of their binomial scientific names. There’s Pachyrhinosaurus canadensis, younger cousin to the Peace country’s Pachyrhinosaurus lakustai (itself named for Canadian Al Lakusta). The word canadensis means ‘of Canada’, and is also the species name for the dinosaur Brachylophosaurus and prehistoric crocodile Leidyosuchus. Several birds, living dinosaurs themselves, also have canadensis as their scientific species name. Examples include Canada Jay, Spruce Grouse, Sandhill Crane, and of course, the Canada Goose.Getting a bit more specific, Alberta has more than a few dinosaurs named for it. Appropriate, for such a fossil-rich place. The first and most obvious one is the tyrannosaur Albertosaurus, a dinosaur found throughout the province but nowhere else. There’s also the tiny alvarezsaur Albertonykus, the horned dinosaur Albertaceratops, the small carnivore Albertavenator curriei (for Canadian paleontology legend Phil Currie), and the stupendously long-necked plesiosaur Albertonectes. A few dinosaurs are named for Alberta in the species name too, like Dromaeosaurus albertensis and Styracosaurus albertensis.There’s also some fossil critters named after places within Alberta as well. A local example would be the fossil lizard Kleskunsaurus grandeprairiensis– no prizes for guessing where that one comes from. There’s the fossil mammal Catopsalis kakwa named for the mountainous Kakwa region. A couple dinosaurs are even indirectly named after Edmonton, in a way. There’s the big duck-billed hardosaur Edmontosaurus, which is found throughout the province, and the armored tank-like dinosaur Edmontonia. These dinosaur were both initially found in what was once called the Edmonton Formation of rock which is exposed from the south side of Edmonton down through the central section of the province. It’s now known as the Horseshoe Canyon Formation, but the names of these dinosaurs remain.There’s all sorts of species named after Canadian people as well. Mostly paleontologists, such as Lawrence Lambe, the Sternberg family (American immigrants sure, but they did their best work in Canada), and of course Dr. Currie. Non-academics like Mr. Lakusta and Wendy Sloboda (of Wendiceratops fame) get well-deserved nods. Some are even named after companies- our local Boreonykus certekorum is a tip of the hat to museum neighbors Certek Heating Solutions. All the more reason to report fossils you might find to paleontologists. Your name might just go down in annals of Canadian fossil history.Upcoming Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum Events:June 29 10:00 AM – 8:00 PM: Canada Day Celebration! Sponsored by Nuvista Energy Ltd!We will have a bouncy castle from 12:00-4:00pm, Dinosaur Songs at 1:30pm on the patio, Face painting from 2:00-5:00pm, Summer Jams feature menu with free freezies! Summer Jams Performance from 6:00-8:00pm with Lacy Krol. No cover, all ages welcome!July 11 4:30 PM: Special Meeting. We are inviting all members to join us for the bylaw amendments that were not brought forward for discussion in our June 6 Annual General Meeting.July 13 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM: Summer James with Wendy Lynn Bredeson. Discover dinosaurs, delicious food, and local talent!Try your hand at working with real dinosaur bones. The Fossil Preparation Lab Volunteer program is running Tuesdays-Thursdays and the first Saturday of the month from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Fridays from 1–7 p.m. For a posted schedule, see dinomuseum.ca/programs/public-programs/fossil-preparation-lab/.-Nicholas Carter, Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum