Paleontologists have identified a new species of dinosaur, a giant bird-like theropod that roamed the badlands of Alberta in Canada during the Late Cretaceous period around 71 million years ago.
Paleontologists first thought the bones and teeth of this specimen belonged to another two-legged dinosaur called Troodon that stalked North America 76 million years ago, often considered one of the smartest of all dinosaurs. But new research, published in the Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, suggests that it’s actually from a completely new species of dinosaur.
The researchers have identified and named the new species Albertavenator curriei, meaning "Currie's Alberta hunter", in honor of renowned Canadian paleontologist Dr Philip J Currie.
"The delicate bones of these small feathered dinosaurs are very rare. We were lucky to have a critical piece of the skull that allowed us to distinguish Albertaventaor as a new species," project leader Dr David Evans, temerty chair and senior curator of vertebrate palaeontology at the Royal Ontario Museum, said in a statement. "We hope to find a more complete skeleton of Albertavenator in the future, as this would tell us so much more about this fascinating animal."
This was all based on the analysis of bone fragments. Subtle differences in its skull, namely it appearing shorter and more robust, suggests that Currie's Alberta hunter probably was not as smart as a Troodon.
As is often the case with paleontology, these estimates were made using bits and pieces of bone. This area in Alberta is scattered with hundreds of teeth. However, the paleontologists were fortunate enough to get their hands on a significant collection of skull bones, from which they could then discern the two species based on anatomical and statistical comparisons.
Once again, this research highlights that North America was probably home to many different species that haven’t been found yet, or even more likely, we haven’t yet identified as a separate species because the fossils are too fragmented and vague.
"This discovery really highlights the importance of finding and examining skeletal material from these rare dinosaurs," concluded Derek Larson, co-author on the study and assistant curator of the Philip J Currie Dinosaur Museum.