But why? What makes a bunch of badlands with some dinosaur bones in them so important to Canada, much less a committee dedicated to protecting such international treasures as the Great Barrier Reef and the Great Pyramids? What makes Dinosaur Provincial Park so GREAT? (Get it? Nevermind, it wasn't that funny anyways.) Here's what the UNESCO website has to say about the park:
The property is unmatched in terms of the number and variety of high quality specimens, over 60 of which represent more than 45 genera and 14 families of dinosaurs, which date back 75-77 million years. The park contains exceptional riparian habitat features as well as "badlands" of outstanding aesthetic value.
The committee also included two main criterion that show why the park is so important:
Criterion (vii): Dinosaur Provincial Park is an outstanding example of major geological processes and fluvial erosion patterns in semi-arid steppes. These "badlands" stretch along 24 kilometers of high quality and virtually undisturbed riparian habitat, presenting a landscape of stark, but exceptional natural beauty.
Criterion (viii): The property is outstanding in the number and variety of high quality specimens representing every known group of Cretaceous dinosaurs. The diversity affords excellent opportunities for paleontology that is both comparative and chronological. Over 300 specimens from the Oldman Formation in the park including more than 150 complete skeletons now reside in more than 30 major museums.
Wow. Well that's a pretty big deal! According to the website, between 1979 and 1991, a grand total of around 23,347 fossils were collected, including an amazing 300 dinosaur skeletons! As mentioned above, the dinosaur skeletons represent every known group of Cretaceous dinosaurs. (I assume that they mean every group that is known to live in North America at the time.) Not only does the sheer amount of fossils allow for a more complete view of an extinct ecosystem, new dinosaurs and other animals have been discovered there, as well as potential behavior that can be inferred from the fossils!
During the Late Cretaceous North America was divided by the Western Interior Seaway, a shallow, continental sea. (To learn more about the seaway, check out a recent post I did on it by clicking HERE). In Dinosaur Provincial Park, you can find the remains of both ocean going animals and land dwellers, as well! The park is, of course, famous for its dinosaurs (as you could probably tell from its name). But many of the marine creatures entombed in the rocks there and in the surrounding area are pretty awesome, as well! For example, Hybodus, an interesting shark!
Before we get to the dinosaurs, let's check out a few other cool creatures found in the park! One of these is a creature we mentioned in a previous post: the post entitled "There Be Dragons," all about the monitor lizards! In the post, I had a picture of a prehistoric monitor lizard named Palaeosaniwa attacking a flock of Ornithomimus. Well, both of these creatures have been found in the park! Below is the picture, created by talented paleo-artist James Field! You can check out his website HERE!
Many animals have been discovered in the park, including turtles, crocodilians, and a ton of plants, but the only other non-dinosaur we are going to look at for now is a small little primitive marsupial mammal called Eodelphis! Eodelphis, whose name means "early opossum," is thought to have weighed a little over a pound which, astonishingly, means that it was one of the largest mammals of its time! It is thought to be related to Didelphodon, another Mesozoic marsupial mammal, who we shall meet in an upcoming post!
Now for the dinosaurs! I'm going to start with an animal called Centrosaurus. A ceratopsian dinosaur (just like Triceratops), thousands of individuals specimens of Centrosaurus have been discovered in a massive bonebed that extends for hundreds of meters! While paleontologists disagree as to exactly what killed all of these animals, and in such immense numbers, the prevailing theory is that this was a herd of animals that drowned while trying to cross a river. The individuals that make up the herd vary widely in age, which is one of the lines of evidence which supports the herd idea. This is important evidence for paleontologists, as it indicates that these animals lived in groups!
Another dinosaur that is found in the park is the small pachycephalosaur called Stegoceras, who is not to be confused with the similarly named and much more famous Stegosaurus!
Here is another fun dinosaur, called Chirostenotes! This oviraptorosaur was first found in the park, and is definitely quite funky looking!
Dromaeosaurus, a distant cousin of Chirostenotes and a closer relative of the famous Velociraptor, was also first discovered in the park!
Just as Dromaeosaurus has been pushed from the limelight by Velociraptor, so too has Daspletosaurus been pushed by Tyrannosaurus! Daspletosaurus is a tyrannosaur as well, and was first discovered in (surprise surprise) Dinosaur Provincial Park! Two more Dinosaur Provinicial Park natives (and firsts) are Euoplocephalus, one of the tank-like ankylosaurs, and Parasaurolophus, a hadrosaur or duck-billed dinosaur!
I can't WAIT to visit the park one day! In the meantime, HERE is a link to the park's website so you, too can plan your visit!