Fossil solved great dinosaur cheek debate

When I was recently asked to pick a significant fossil from the museum’s collection to profile in a video, I had a difficult time making up my mind – we have thousands of remarkable specimens. In the end my choice came down to an intriguing question: Did dinosaurs have cheeks?

As a museum paleontologist, much of my research focuses on the animals that lived in western North America during the Late Cretaceous epoch, about 80 to 70 million years ago, the end of the reign of the dinosaurs as the dominant group on the planet. So, it was a safe bet that my pick would be a Cretaceous dinosaur.

Then the skull of the armoured dinosaur Panoplosaurus mirus jumped to mind as definitely meriting some discussion.

Collected in 1917 from what’s now Dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta, it’s the holotype, the specimen on which the species has been defined.

And, this well-preserved Panoplosaurus skull helped decide the debate about whether dinosaurs had cheeks.

Watch the video to learn the answer.

Want to meet Panoplosaurus mirus in person? Join me at our annual Open House at the Natural Heritage Campus in Gatineau on October 13, 2018, the behind-the-scenes event at the Museum’s research and collections facility.

I’ll be happy to answer any questions you have, and rest assured, I’ll refrain from any cheeky tones in my responses, even if we’re talking about Panoplosaurus!

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