Arctic mystery no longer: Dinosaurs walked Canada's great north

October 14, 2004

Hans Larsson, a McGill University palaeontologist (located in Montreal, Canada), has found physical proof that Canada's Arctic regions once had a Jurassic era. Scientists have suspected that dinosaurs lived in Canada's great north eons ago, yet it remained an unproven theory, since no bones had ever been uncovered.

Not anymore. Larsson has discovered tyrannosaurus dinosaur bones, which until now, had only been located in Canada's Prairie Provinces, as well as in the Western United States. "We were able to clarify that dinosaurs - large predatory dinosaurs - and a great variety of plants lived in the High Artic," he says.

"We found dinosaur remains, as well as fern and tree fossils," continues Larsson, who walked up to 25 kilometres per day for one month with his research team to locate bones during the summer of 2003 and 2004. "You wouldn't expect it, yet dinosaurs and a great variety of plants lived in the High Arctic 240 to 65 million years ago."

These were Larsson's first Arctic expeditions. He has also visited Western Africa five times to seek out elusive dinosaur fossils. He says the work isn't easy. Artic digs meant hours of walking with heavy equipment, while African digs came with pounding sun and drinking bad water. Yet it's all worth it. "The fact that I may bring new perspectives on ancient life is what keeps me going," he says.

Larsson, who teaches biology and is curator of vertebrate palaeontology at McGill's Redpath Museum, is most interested in discovering unknown species. Of particular interest are archosaurian reptiles, (crocodiles), birds and dinosaurs. He focuses on two parallel research tracks: fossil collection and developmental biology.

His main pursuit is to track the evolution of one species and their development. In Niger alone, his explorations with University of Chicago palaeontologist Paul Sereno led to the discovery of eight unknown dinosaur species and five new crocodile species. Read more on Larsson at www.mcgill.ca/reporter/35/10/newprofs/larsson/.
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McGill University

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