Nathan Hrushkin, left, helps Francois Therrien, curator of dinosaur paleoecology at the Royal Tyrrell Museum, assemble a plaster cast onto a fossilized dinosaur bone, which was discovered by Hrushkin in the Horseshoe Valley of southern Alberta in an undated handout photo. Experts say the 12-year-old Calgary boy’s discovery will fill a significant gap in their knowledge of dinosaur evolution. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Dion Hrushkin, *MANDATORY CREDIT*

Nathan Hrushkin, left, helps Francois Therrien, curator of dinosaur paleoecology at the Royal Tyrrell Museum, assemble a plaster cast onto a fossilized dinosaur bone, which was discovered by Hrushkin in the Horseshoe Valley of southern Alberta in an undated handout photo. Experts say the 12-year-old Calgary boy’s discovery will fill a significant gap in their knowledge of dinosaur evolution. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Dion Hrushkin, *MANDATORY CREDIT*

‘Discovery by little Nathan:’ Boy, 12, finds fossil of duck-billed dinosaur in Alberta

Nathan and his dad have learned that the bone belonged to a young hadrosaur

Aspiring paleontologist Nathan Hrushkin speaks with pride about his “killer resume.”

The Grade 7 student from Calgary discovered a rare dinosaur skeleton earlier this year at Horseshoe Canyon in the Badlands region of southeastern Alberta.

It’s a significant find that one expert says fills a gap in the knowledge of dinosaur evolution.

“I really wanted to be a paleontologist before (and) now that I’ve found something already, at only 12 years old … I’d have a pretty killer resume,” Nathan said with a laugh during a phone interview.

He said he was on a hike with his father and a few friends on a sunny, hot day in late June, when he saw a bone protruding from the ground.

“The first thing I said was, ‘Oh my God, Dad. You need to get up here!’”

After emailing photos of the discovery to the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology in Drumheller, Alta., Nathan and his dad learned that the bone belonged to a young hadrosaur, also known as a duck-billed dinosaur because its pointed snout is similar to a duck’s.

Hadrosaurs could grow up to 13 metres long and roamed Alberta while triceratopses and tyrannosaurs ruled the Earth, said François Therrien, curator of dinosaur paleoecology at the Royal Tyrrell Museum, who responded to Nathan’s’ email

Therrien said the three- to four-year-old hadrosaur lived about 69 million years ago. It’s a time period experts don’t know much about “in terms of dinosaurs living here in Canada and even in the western interior of North America,” said Therrien

“We have very little information about what’s going on … that discovery by little Nathan is of great significance. Because it is one more piece to that puzzle.”

Therrien said the find can help archeologists learn more about, not just the evolution of dinosaurs, but also how they responded to their changing climate and environment.

“I’m really excited because that time interval in the Earth’s history is a time of important environmental and climatic changes. There’s periods of rapid cooling, rapid warming, dropping rainfall, more humid conditions.

“My interest is figuring out what’s happening to the animals during that time, especially dinosaurs. How are they faring with those periods of global climatic changes?”

On Thursday, Nathan and his dad were to join Therrien and his team in extracting the final pieces of the approximately three-metre-long hadrosaur, including its partial skull. The pieces are to be placed in protective jackets made of burlap and plaster and sent to the museum’s lab for cleaning and research.

The Nature Conservancy of Canada said that since Nathan’s find, paleontologists have uncovered between 30 and 50 bones in the canyon’s wall.

Therrien said the youngster’s response to the discovery is a textbook example of what the public should do when they come across fossils, bones and other skeletons in the area — contact the museum.

As for Nathan, he said working with Therrien has helped him discover a lot about himself, too.

His love for dinosaurs had made it difficult for him to choose a favourite.

Now, he says, it’s a juvenile hadrosaur.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Fakiha Baig, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Science

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

Just Posted

Terry Keogh, an RDN Transit driver, used his paramedic skills the morning of Jan. 22 after coming across an unconscious woman along his route in downtown Nanaimo. (RDN Transit photo)
RDN Transit driver stops his bus and helps get overdosing woman breathing again

Former EMT from Ireland performed CPR on a woman in downtown Nanaimo on Friday

The intersection at Moilliet Street and Despard Avenue where a 12-year-old boy was struck by an oncoming vehicle early November while crossing at a marked crosswalk. (Mandy Moraes photo)
City staff members, school district officials to discuss high-traffic Parksville intersection

Young boy suffered broken leg after being hit in Despard/Moilliet crossing

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. (News Bulletin file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak declared at Nanaimo hospital

Two staff members and one patient have tested positive, all on the same floor

A long-term care worker receives the Pfizer vaccine at a clinic in Nanaimo earlier this month. (Island Health photo)
All Island seniors in long-term care will be vaccinated by the end of this weekend

Immunization of high-risk population will continue over the next two months

A 75-year-old aircraft has been languishing in a parking lot on the campus of the University of the Fraser Valley, but will soon be moved to the B.C. Aviation Museum. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Vintage military aircraft moving from Chilliwack to new home at B.C. Aviation Museum

The challenging move to Vancouver Island will be documented by Discovery Channel film crews

Chartwell Malaspina Care Residence in Nanaimo. (News Bulletin file photo)
Another staff member tests positive for COVID-19 at Nanaimo care home

Chartwell Malaspina Care Residence employee is isolating, says Island Health

Actions of Vancouver Island RCMP emergency response team members prevented a potential head-on collision accident on the Trans-Canada Highway on Jan. 19, says Nanaimo RCMP. (News Bulletin file)
Eight cars evade vehicle driving on wrong side of highway, says Nanaimo RCMP

Incident occurred near Trans-Canada Highway-Morden Road intersection earlier this week

A video posted to social media by Chilliwack resident Rob Iezzi shows a teenager getting kicked in the face after being approached by three suspects on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (YouTube/Rob i)
VIDEO: Security cameras capture ‘just one more assault’ near B.C. high school

Third high-school related assault captured by Chilliwack resident’s cameras since beginning of 2021

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey prepares to speak at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. A mythical, ape-like creature that has captured the imagination of adventurers for decades has now become the target of Rep. Justin Humphrey. Humphrey, a Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season, He says issuing a state hunting license and tag could help boost tourism. (Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
Oklahoma lawmaker proposes ‘Bigfoot’ hunting season

A Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season

Economic Development and Official Languages Minister Melanie Joly responds to a question in the House of Commons Monday November 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Federal minister touts need for new B.C. economic development agency

Last December’s federal economic update promised a stimulus package of about $100 billion this year

Most Read