The Dinosaur Provincial Park, encompassing an area of 7,493 hectares, is recognized for its outstanding universal value and was classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1979. The park hosts dinosaur specimens belonging to over 40 species as well as fossils of other forms of small and large prehistoric life forms. The unique and interesting park is located in Canada’s Alberta province, two and a half hours drive from Calgary and a half hours drive from Brooks. The badlands of the Red Deer River Valley forms the most prominent landscape of the Dinosaur Provincial Park.
Specimens of 44 species of dinosaurs belonging to 34 genera and 10 families, dating back 75 to 77 million years ago, have been unearthed at the Dinosaur Provincial Park. Some of the noteworthy specimens excavated here include an entire skeleton of Albertosaurus libratus (pictured above) and a skull belonging to Centrosaurus apertus. Other specimens discovered at the park belong to extinct freshwater vertebrates likes sharks, rays, teleosts and other fish species, several species of amphibians like those belonging to the extinct family of Albanerpetontidae, reptilians of the extinct Champsosaurus genus and several others, and a few mammalian fossils as well. The Dinosaur Provincial Park also stores a plethora of fossilized specimens from the Plant Kingdom including fossilized forms of wood, foliage, leaves, pollen and spores of ferns, conifers, Cercidiphyllum, and Ginkgo.
Education and Research
The Dinosaur Provincial Park was established on June 27th, 1955 to protect the rich treasures of the park, especially the fossilized remains of prehistoric animals and plants. The amateur fossil enthusiast, Roy Fowler was assigned the responsibility to manage the park in its nascent years. Soon, the park turned into a hub of intense research activity drawing paleontologists and other researchers from all across the globe to collect specimens from the site. Initially, specimens were transported over large distances to museums for display or laboratories for analysis. For example, specimens from the park are currently on display in the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Canada and the American Museum of Natural History in New York, USA. Recently, however, the specimens from the Dinosaur Provincial Park are usually sent to the Royal Tyrrell Museum within Alberta. The museum, operated by the Canadian Ministry of Culture, hosts a paleontological laboratory and a rich collection of fossils within its establishment. Besides research, the Dinosaur Provincial Park is also a popular location for school and college excursions. Every year schools across Canada conduct excursions to the park to educate the students about prehistoric species and paleontology. Online virtual excursions of the park via videoconferencing is also an available facility.
Modern Habitat and Biodiversity
The Dinosaur Provincial Park hosts a unique diversity of flora and fauna in its distinct habitat. Rows of cottonwood and willow trees grow along the banks of the river in the park forming a canopy above the forest floor. The fertile soil and availability of sufficient water also supports a dense undergrowth of shrubs and bushes like roses and Saskatoon. The badlands houses several varieties of drought-resistant cacti, sage and grease-wood plants. The boundaries of the park outside the river valley is occupied by vast stretches of grasslands. Over 160 species of avian fauna, including woodpeckers, warblers, eagles, and falcons, can be sighted in the park. Highly poisonous prairies rattlesnakes and non-venomous bull snakes are also common in the park. Mammalian species of note in the park include coyotes, mules, pronghorn antelopes, and cottontail rabbits.
Threats and Conservation
The Dinosaur Provincial Park is protected by the provincial laws of Alberta including the Historic Resources Act and the Provincial Parks Act. The park is placed under the control of a park manager who oversees the entire operations of the park and several trained staff are engaged in protecting the fossil specimens of the park. A field station also exists in the park that is operated by the Royal Tyrrell Museum. The excavated specimens from the park are usually stored and cataloged at this station.