Dino Lovers, Cast Your Votes


“Who” will it be: Stumpy, Canadian Club, Mystery Jaw, Regal Ed or Headrosaur? Those are the five “dinostars” vying for the title of Dino Idol at the Canadian Museum of Nature. Check them out and pick your fave! Through March 17, visitors to Canada’s national natural history museum can cast a vote at this display and contest that will help contribute to the museum’s next dinosaur research project.

Here’s a look at the contenders:

Mystery Jaw: a jaw of a carnivorous dinosaur collected in 1914 that might have been Gorgosaurus libratus or Daspletosaurus torosus, earlier cousins of Tyrannosaurus rex.

Stumpy: the skull of a horned dinosaur collected in 1924. It might be the rare Arrhinoceratops.

Regal Ed: the skeleton of a duck-billed dinosaur called Edmontosauras regalis. It is special because it is a holotype (the unique reference specimen of a species for future scientific comparison). The head of this animal has already been prepared.

Headrosaur: this specimen is the head of a duck-billed dinosaur found in 1914. The head probably washed away from the body a long time ago (a common situation for fossils of these dinosaurs, known as hadrosaurs).

The Canadian Club: this jacket is believed to contain the hips, tail and club of an ankylosaur. The bony club was an effective defence weapon against predators. Collected in 1915, it might be the rare species Dyoplosaurus acutosquameous.

While visitors get to choose, there is a catch. The fossils are encased in rock and sealed in plaster “field jackets” that have remained unopened since the bones were unearthed about 100 years ago. The jackets weigh from 115 to 300 kilograms and are commonly used by palaeontologists to store fossils found in the field. The Canadian Museum of Nature has more than 200 of them, with some containing nearly complete skeletons and others holding parts. Most were collected during the early the 20th century by fossil hunters Charles H. Sternberg and his three sons, who were hired by the Geological Survey of Canada (the museum’s predecessor). “The Sternberg field notes give us some idea what’s inside each one, but it’s only until we crack one open for research that we can truly know what we’re dealing with,” explains Dr. Jordan Mallon, a dinosaur palaeontologist who will lead the research on the Dino Idol. “It will be exciting to see which one comes out on top,” he says. “Whichever one is picked will offer something new for research and will contribute to our understanding of dinosaur evolution.”

Access to Dino Idol is included with museum admission. The winner will be announced March 19 and the winning jacket will be opened at the museum’s research facility. The fossil team will extract the embedded bones and prepare them for study. Periodic blog postings will share the progress. For details, visit nature.ca.

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