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Sat Nite Fun: Baby dino to star in hit Coursera MOOC on dinos

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Canadian Badlands
Canadian Badlands

From the University of Alberta (Canada), which has impressive dinosaur riches from the Badlands. The baby dino skeleton, unearthed in 2010, is a Chasmosaurus belli:

It’s the first time anyone has found a baby of this species intact in 150 years of digs at Dinosaur Provincial Park—or anywhere for that matter.

The Chasmosaurus was a horned dinosaur once commonly found in Alberta’s badlands, a relative of the Triceratops. Currie estimates the 1.5-metre-long fossilized baby was about three years old when it died, possibly from drowning, 72 million years ago.

The dino immediately becomes “one of the top three star pieces” of the U of A’s Laboratory for Vertebrate Paleontology, a collection that includes more than 50,000 specimens ranging in age from 450 million to 10,000 years old. The collection is actively used by researchers and students, and there’s no shortage of potential studies that can be done on the Chasmosaurus, Currie said, from looking at how dino skin ages to weight changes over its lifespan.

File:Chasmosaurus BW.jpg
adult Chasmosaurus belli/Noko Tamura

Now, about the MOOC [massive open online learning] course, Dino 101: It is free if you don’t need credit. Details here.

The public will get a chance to see a whole lot more of the baby Chasmosaurus in January, when a new round of classes begin for Dino 101, the wildly popular massive open online course led by Currie. The specimen will feature prominently in course material, providing a “sterling” example for teaching about dinosaur biology, including differences in appearance from juveniles to adults, he said.

“We’ll use it as an example of how certain features like the frill in Ceratopsian dinosaurs are almost certainly developed as display structures,” he added. “They are things that are not so important and much smaller in the babies, but in a large sexually mature animal develop into these very bizarre structures.”

As we can see in the pencil drawing above.

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