Possible new dinosaur species found in Alberta

The co-author of a new study detailing a string of recent dinosaur discoveries near Grande Prairie, Alta. -- hundreds of kilometres north of the province's famous southern bonebeds -- says the findings point to a reptile-rich ecosystem almost certain to yield a host of species previously unknown to science.

Highlighting the discoveries are the scattered remnants of several guinea pig-sized dinosaur hatchlings, apparently killed in a "gruesome feeding frenzy" close to their nest by predators that left a number of their teeth strewn among the bones of their victims.

University of Alberta paleontology student Tetsuto Miyashita, who worked for two years with Italian scientist Frederico Fanti at the 73-million-year-old site about 450 km northwest of Edmonton, said they suspect the partly devoured hatchlings "might be a new species of duck-billed dinosaur" that would have reached 10 metres in length.

Instead, just days or hours out of their nest, they appear to have fallen prey to one or more Troodons, raptor-like dinosaurs about two metres in length that -- in the fury of the hunt - routinely lost teeth from their shark-like rows of chompers.

Fanti and Miyashita have published their findings in the latest issue of the journal Palaeogeoraphy, Palaeocilmatology, Palaeoecology. They theorize that the ancient Grande Prairie ecosystem constitutes a "missing link" for dinosaur evolution in North America because it differed significantly from environments further to the north and south.

"We found these bones along with a lot of carnivore teeth," said Miyashita. "So we suspect these carnivores were feeding on the hatchling dinosaurs. They were so small, we think they had just left the nest. The nesting site remains to be discovered, but it's right there."

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