This is the fourth of five blogs by Jordan Mallon, Ph.D., that profiles the fossils featured in the museum’s Dino Idol competition. The contest began February 16 and you have until March 17, 2013, to visit the Canadian Museum of Nature and choose your favourite from among the five dinosaurs whose bones are sealed away in plaster field jackets.

Ankylosaurids (armoured dinosaurs) are sometimes called the ‘tanks of the Cretaceous’, given their squat bodies and armoured hides. But something even more formidable adorned the ends of their tails: a massive, bony club that could be used to defend against threatening predators.

The Canadian Club, the fourth entry in the museum’s Dino Idol exhibit and contest, happens to be one of those tail clubs attached to the back half of the animal. The specimen was collected by Charles H. Sternberg from what is now Dinosaur Provincial Park (“the Park”) in 1915.

Illustration of Euoplocephalus.
Canadian Club belongs to an ankylosaurid, similar to the intimidating Euoplocephalus depicted here. Image: Brett Booth © Canadian Museum of Nature.

Armoured dinosaurs are fairly common in Alberta, but it’s possible to narrow down the likely candidate encased in our plaster field jacket based on the geographic origin of the Canadian Club. Depending on whose classification scheme you accept, there are between three and five armoured dinosaurs known from the Park.

Two of these (Panoplosaurus and Edmontonia) did not possess tail clubs, precluding them as candidates. The other three dinosaurs, Euoplocephalus, Dyoplosaurus, and Scolosaurus, did possess tail clubs, and the Canadian Club might be one of these.

A horse hauls a plaster field jacket up a hill.
Field jackets containing the likes of the Canadian Club were too heavy and unwieldy to remove from the badlands using manpower alone. Here, a team of horses helps a member of the Sternberg family to haul a fossil up to prairie level. Often, makeshift roads were cut first to help the horses climb the steep banks. Image: Charles H. Sternberg © Canadian Museum of Nature.

You can see an example of a Euoplocephalus tail club in the museum’s Talisman Energy Fossil Gallery.

I hope that our Canadian Club will prove to be either Dyoplosaurus or Scolosaurus. These animals are very rare, being known from just a single specimen each. It would be great if we could have more examples of these uncommon beasts so that we might better understand their growth and variation.

Then again, a new specimen of Euoplocephalus—with its armour scutes in place—would also be a valuable addition to the museum’s collections (and the field notes hint that there might be scutes!).

The plaster field jacket for Canadian Club in Dino Idol.
Jordan Mallon looks at Canadian Club in the Dino Idol exhibit. The writing on the jacket tells us that it was the twelfth specimen collected by CHS (Charles H. Sternberg) in 1915. Image: Dan Smythe © Canadian Museum of Nature.

Of course, the only way any of this will happen is if the Canadian Club gets enough of your votes so that we can open it up and carefully study its anatomy.

Next week, I’ll wrap up our review of the five Dino Idol candidates when I’ll introduce you to the final contestant, Regal Ed.

Read previous blogs about the Dino Idol contestants:
Dino Idol Contestant #1: Headrosaur—A Head without a Body!
Dino Idol Contestant #2: Mystery Jaw—A Carnivore in Search of an Identity
Dino Idol Contestant #3: Stumpy—The Mystery of the Missing Horn