Shawn Funk, a shovel operator at Suncor Energy Mine near Fort McMurray, Alberta, found the remains of a possible ankylosaur earlier this week. The Royal Tyrrell Museum has been up to investigate and has posted some tantalizing photos on their Facebook page.
Fort McMurray, for non-Canadians, is where all of the oil comes from.
This would not be the first vertebrate fossil discovered in the oil sands. The ichthyosaur Athabascasaurus bitumineus was named in 2010 by Patrick Druckenmiller and Erin Maxwell, and was found in a Syncrude Mine near Fort McMurray. The specimen was featured in the Royal Tyrrell Museum's 25th Anniversary exhibition Alberta Unearthed - it is still oozing tar. It's a beautiful specimen.
The well-known dinosaur-bearing formations of Alberta, like the Horseshoe Canyon Formation, Wapiti Formation, and of course the Dinosaur Park Formation, are all Late Cretaceous deposits. This new dinosaur, however, is from the Early Cretaceous, and is therefore likely to be quite different from the ankylosaurs known from southern Alberta. Ankylosaurs from this time period include lots of nodosaurs, like Sauropelta from Wyoming and Utah, Pawpawsaurus and Texasetes from Texas, and Cedarpelta (which may actually be a shamosaurine ankylosaurid - see Carpenter et al. 2008) from Utah. I will certainly be very interested to hear more about this new find! And great job to the folks at Suncor who spotted the fossil and called in the Tyrrell so quickly.
Druckenmiller PS, Maxwell EE. 2010. A new Lower Cretaceous (lower Albian) ichthyosaur genus from the Clearwater Formation, Alberta, Canada. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences 47: 1037–1053.
Carpenter K, Bartlett J, Bird J, Barrick R. 2008. Ankylosaurs from the Price River Quarries, Cedar Mountain Formation (Lower Cretaceous), east-central Utah. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 28: 1089–1101.