Since 2003 the PRPRC has been led by paleontologists to become the world-renowned palaeontology centre it is today. The PRPRC is home to the Dinosaur Discovery Gallery, and our Collections, a comprehensive research archive of British Columbia’s dinosaur footprints, bones, Triassic marine fish and swimming reptiles.
The heart of all Museum activities is the Collections. Collections is where the fossils are safely stored and monitored, and is the foundation of all our scientific and outreach activities. Collections is the safety deposit box of British Columbia’s fossil heritage. Our goal is to maintain a stable collections facility so that British Columbia’s fossil heritage can continue to educate and amaze future generations of scientists and explorers.
The Museum Collections are available for scientists to use in their exploration of our planet’s fossil heritage. For inquiries about accessing specimens and all other inquiries about the Collections, please contact our Curator.
As the Museum's Collections is the heart of PRPRC activities, the Research is its soul. Research is what we learn about ancient life from the fossil heritage in the Collections. Our Research Program focuses on the footprint record of dinosaurs and other terrestrial vertebrates of western Canada, and how western Canada’s fossil tracks fit into our global understanding of Cretaceous-age (145 – 66 million years ago) dinosaurs.
From tyrannosaur trackways to dinosaur courtship displays, the research by PRPRC palaeontologists and their palaeontology colleagues from around the world shows how British Columbia’s fossil heritage adds to the complex and exciting story of our planet’s history.
Discovered in 2017 by chiropractor Rick Lambert while camping along Flatbed Creek, this is the first confirmed skeletal (bony) fossil from a tyrannosaur in British Columbia.
We are looking at the inside surface of the upper jaw (maxilla), and many tiny details are preserved, including the cutting surfaces of the teeth!
The rocks that preserve tyrannosaur bones in British Columbia are too old to contain Tyrannosaurus rex. However, the 72 – 74-million-year-old rocks are the right age to preserve the tyrannosaur Albertosaurus.
In 2007 PRPRC palaeontologists discovered pieces of dinosaur bones eroding from the side of a steep hill. Palaeontologists can’t tell how much of a dinosaur is present until they start digging, so in 2008 a test pit was made, revealing hundreds of bones and bone pieces. In 2009 PRPRC palaeontologists discovered two things: the dinosaur skeleton was a hadrosaur (crested herbivorous dinosaur), and that the bones were still together!
The excavation of British Columbia’s most complete dinosaur skeleton ran from 2008 – 2013, culminating in the helicopter airlift of the plaster jacket containing the skeleton (tail, hips, back, shoulders) featured on the mini-series “Dino Hunt Canada.”
No need for dinosaur dentists: dinosaurs would shed and replace their teeth throughout their lives. Loose teeth would fall out when the dinosaur was feeding. Several shed teeth from small tyrannosaurs were found with the hadrosaur skeleton [link to the hadrosaur section]. In fact, all of the tyrannosaur teeth archived in the Museum's Collections comes from the hadrosaur excavation (with the exception of one tooth fragment found by former Curator Dr. Richard McCrea in 2004).
Many of the tyrannosaur teeth from the hadrosaur excavation were broken at the time of their burial: tyrannosaurs would often crunch their teeth into the bones of what they were eating.
Coelacanths are a lobe-finned fish (and our distant cousin!) found in the Triassic-age rocks (251 – 201 million years ago) of British Columbia, and there are coelacanths alive today. They are often called a “living fossil” because the coelacanths of today look similar to Triassic-age coelacanths. In 2012, palaeontologist. Andrew Wendruff described a completely new type of coelacanth fossil from the PRPRC Collections. Rebellatrix divericerca means “rebel with a forked tail.” Before this discovery, all coelacanths (even the present-day ones) were found with round tails. The long, forked tail of Rebellatrix shows it was a fast, active predator of the Triassic seas.
Even though tyrannosaurs are highly studied, there was very little known about the footprints of tyrannosaurs. A small number of footprints had been found, but never a series of tyrannosaur footprints in a row, made by one tyrannosaur. That changed in 2011 when guide outfitter Aaron Fredlund reported a large carnivorous dinosaur trackway to PRPRC palaeontologists.
This was the first tyrannosaur trackway to be described by science. Trackways are important for seeing how animals used their legs and feet to move, how fast they were going, and even how large and how old the animal was!
Dinosaur footprints have been known to science since the 1920s, and were first written up by Charles M. Sternberg, part of the famous palaeontology family Sternberg, in 1931. This was the first time that dinosaur tracks from the Cretaceous Period were described. Unfortunately, the famous Sternberg track sites were flooded by the W.A.C. Bennett and Peace Canyon dams and were last visible in 1979.
In 2008 a large surface with preserved dinosaur tracks was reported to PRPRC palaeontologists. However, they had to keep the site secret until they could raise money to start uncovering the footprints in 2016. Over 1000 dinosaur footprints over 700 square meters were uncovered in 2016. More research funding is needed to continue studying the rest of 3000 square meter site.
The track site was also featured in the Globe and Mail.
Heritage Branch began developing the Fossil Management Framework for British Columbia in 2011to offer guidance, policy, and direction with regards to British Columbia’s fossil heritage. Please visit the Fossil Management Framework website for more information.
The British Columbia Paleontological Alliance (BCPA) is a union of professional and amateur paleontological organizations working to advance the science of paleontology in the province by fostering public awareness, scientific collecting and education, and by promoting communication among all those interested in fossils.
Please visit the BCPA website for information on their events, newsletters, and more!
If you think you have found a fossil, or have fossil-related inquiries, please contact the museum for more information.