Stories of discovery: Pachyrhinosaurus lakustai bonebed

Editor’s note: We continue our series highlighting significant fossil discoveries found by members of the public. Remember, if you find a fossil, follow these instructions.

1986: Pachyrhinosaurus lakustai bonebed (TMP 1986.055.0258)

A skeleton of Pachyrhinosaurus lakustai in Dinosaur Hall from the Pipestone Creek bonebed.

Al Lakusta was a junior high science teacher in Grande Prairie in the 1970s. As part of his lessons, he took students prospecting for fossils at Pipestone Creek. The fossils they found were usually molluscs, like clams and oysters. One day in 1974, Al came across dinosaur fossils when he ventured farther upstream than usual. He looked along the banks for the source of the fallen fossil material, and luckily spotted a ledge about 10 metres above the creek. He clambered up the bank and located the fossil-rich layer. He sent samples of the fossils to the Provincial Museum of Alberta, and consulted with scientists from the Grande Prairie Regional College to learn more about his find. Palaeontologists, including Dr. Philip Currie, were then involved to help identify the bones.

Al Lakusta poses with a model of his Pachyrhinosaurus lakustai.

One year after the Royal Tyrrell Museum opened to the public, excavation of the site began. After four summers of rigorous fieldwork, the densely packed bonebed produced at least 27 individual animals. Finally, after two decades of research, a description of Pachyrhinosaurus lakustai was published in 2008, naming it for Al Lakusta.

Excavation of the Pipestone Creek bonebed.

University of Alberta researchers determined that the site contained up to 100 bones per square metre, with 3,500 bones in total; 14 skulls had been collected. The Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum in Wembley, Alberta currently leads program participants to the site where excavation and collection continues.

Pachyrhinosaurus lakustai skull in the Royal Tyrrell Museum collection.

3 thoughts on “Stories of discovery: Pachyrhinosaurus lakustai bonebed

  • Excellent example of someone finding something really valuable. It was useful for me to read how one can help the professionals in this field.

  • Thank you. I’m glad you read my comment. If it is valuable to others that will be appreciated as well.

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