Thursday, February 22, 2024

Vancouver Island fossils featured in Royal BC Museum’s new dinosaur exhibit (PHOTOS)

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The Royal BC Museum (RBCM) has a new exhibit that opened this week which breathes life into the dinosaurs that roamed BC and Vancouver Island!

Patrons will get to learn about the dinosaurs that were native to the province specifically and the different regions and timelines they lived in.

The focal point of the exhibit which boasts a wide array of dino facts and fossils is ‘Buster’ — a new species discovered right here in northern BC near the Sustut River.

On Wednesday, April 19th, the RBCM hosted a press conference where Dr. Victoria Arbour, the paleontologist that led the research team who put the exhibit together, spoke about the long road she has taken to get this exhibit open to the public. 

“I can actually trace this particular project back to late 2004,” laughed Dr. Arbour. “Back then one of my professors had been given a little shoebox of bones from a retired paleontologist named Kenny Larson who had been working along the Sustut River in 1971 doing prospecting for economic minerals.”

The professor asked Arbour if she’d like to work on identifying those bones as a research project, and she enthusiastically agreed, not knowing at the time that little shoebox would help launch her career and aid her in making history. 

The bones she had were not enough to fully identify what the species of dinosaur was, so she gave the dino the nickname ‘Buster’ while she worked to figure that out. 

Dr. Arbour was eventually, over a decade later, able to figure out that Buster was not a member of the duckbill dinosaur family, and that it was actually a relative of the Triceratops.

Dr. Victoria Arbour at the opening of the Dinosaurs of BC exhibit on April 19th, 2023 (Curtis Blandy Victoria Buzz)

“In 2018 I got to rejoin my good friend Buster, because I was hired here as the curator of paleontology,” Dr. Arbour said. 

“During that time we realized that not only was Buster a relative of the Triceratops, but he was actually a species new to science.”

Buster was given the scientific name Ferrisaurus sustutensis, which means the iron lizard from the Sustut River. 

Although Buster’s skeleton wasn’t fully complete, his form came together thanks to some close relative dinosaurs that are known from complete skeletons, which allowed Dr. Arbour and her colleagues to figure out what he would look like exactly. 

Small, touchable model of Buster (Curtis Blandy Victoria Buzz)
Life-size recreation of Buster (Curtis Blandy Victoria Buzz)

A life-size and shockingly life-like recreation of what Buster looked like is the centre-piece of the Dinosaurs of BC exhibit and was meticulously made to be as accurate as possible, with some creative leeway on the colour and texture of his skin. 

Buster isn’t the only thing worth seeing at the exhibit though. Dinosaurs of BC features Tyrannosaur footprints and fossils, Sauropod footprints, Ankylosaurus fossils and even some fossils from Vancouver Island.

“This exhibit also showcases the surprising diversity of dinosaurs found not just in the Sustut Basin, but from all across BC,” Dr. Arbour explained. 

“Long stretches of the east coast of the island from Duncan to Campbell River preserve rocks that were originally deposited in ancient marine environments during the Cretaceus period.”

“The vast majority of those fossils are sea creatures… but we do have one bone from the island that’s from a dinosaur, and that’s a tailbone from an ostrich-like feathered dinosaur called an Ornithomimid.”

Vancouver Island dinosaur bones found that are part of the exhibit (Curtis Blandy Victoria Buzz)

“I’m pretty sure there are more dinosaur discoveries awaiting for us on the island if we look in the right places.”

These fossils are from between 145 million years ago to 68 million years ago. This makes up almost the entirety of the Cretaceaus period. 

There are maps to show where the fossils in the exhibit were found, interactive games for kids to play and videos of Dr. Arbour and her team finding the fossils that became cornerstones of the exhibit. 

“Truly we have only scratched the surface in the most literal way possible,” Dr. Arbour said regarding how much more possibility there is in discovering new dinosaur fossils and stories with BC.

The Dinosaurs of BC exhibit will be in the Royal BC Museum all spring and summer and in June, the exhibit will be expanded to include more fossils and stories, as well as a life-size Tyrannosaur model.

Below are some additional photos of the Dinosaurs of BC exhibit at the Royal BC Museum:

Ankylosaurus vertebrae fossil (Curtis Blandy Victoria Buzz)
Tyrannosaurus footprint and partial skull (Curtis Blandy Victoria Buzz)
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Curtis Blandy
curtis@victoriabuzz.com

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