"Deep in the bowels of the world’s greatest palaeontological museum, a hitherto unknown species of dinosaur has been waiting to be unveiled. Concealed behind a black cloth, it has spent the past month placed discreetly at the back of an immense storeroom filled with row after row of fossils. Some lie stored in wooden boxes like the Ark of the Covenant in the Indiana Jones films; others, less delicate, are stacked on open shelves. Horned skulls, beaked skulls, armoured skulls: all the astounding variety of late Cretaceous megafauna is arrayed amid the shadows. No more remarkable an ossuary is to be found anywhere in the world – and still the finds keep on being made.
The Royal Tyrrell Museum was founded 30 years ago, to serve as a monument to the wonders among which it stands. Back in the late Mesozoic era, the barren prairie land of the Canadian province of Alberta wore a very different aspect. Lush, steaming and lapped by shallow seas, its forests were as ideally suited to sustaining vast herds of dinosaurs as its muds and sands were to fossilising their remains. When a glacier scored a great gash across the prairie during the most recent ice age, the Cretaceous sediment and all its incomparable freight of fossils were exposed to the weathering effects of wind and rain. What the Valley of the Kings is to Egyptology, the badlands of Alberta are to palaeontology – except that they contain, unlike the Valley of the Kings, a seemingly infinite reservoir of treasures. With every storm, more of them are exposed: everything from the scattered teeth or claws of isolated specimens to the bone beds of entire herds. As a result, our knowledge of the late Mesozoic is improving exponentially, year on year. Much that was mysterious about dinosaurs is no longer so, and much that was misunderstood has been corrected. It is, as a feat of resurrectionism, as dazzling as anything in the history of science.
Except, of course, that for many of us it still does not go far enough. [...]"