Albertavenator curriei, as the paleontologists call the new dinosaur species, belongs to Troodontidae, a family of bird-like theropod dinosaurs.
It lived about 71 million years ago (Cretaceous period) in what is now Alberta, Canada.
Its specific name, curriei, honors the renowned Canadian paleontologist Dr. Philip J. Currie.
The bones of Albertavenator curriei were found in the badlands surrounding the Royal Tyrrell Museum, which Dr. Currie played a key role in establishing in the early 1980s.
Scientists initially thought that the dinosaur’s bones belonged to its close relative, Troodon inequalis, which lived around 5 million years earlier.
Both bird-like creatures walked on two legs, were covered in feathers, and were about the size of a person.
New comparisons of bones forming the top of the head reveal that Albertavenator curriei had a distinctively shorter and more robust skull than Troodon.
“The delicate bones of these feathered dinosaurs are very rare,” said Dr. David Evans, Temerty Chair and Senior Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology at the Royal Ontario Museum and lead author of a new paper in the Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences describing the discovery.
“We were lucky to have a critical piece of the skull that allowed us to distinguish Albertavenator curriei as a new species.”
“We hope to find a more complete skeleton of Albertavenator curriei in the future, as this would tell us so much more about this fascinating animal.”
“It was only through our detailed anatomical and statistical comparisons of the skull bones that we were able to distinguish between Albertavenator currieiand Troodon,” added co-author Thomas Cullen, a Ph.D. student at the University of Toronto.
“This discovery really highlights the importance of finding and examining skeletal material from these rare dinosaurs,” said co-author Dr. Derek Larson, Assistant Curator of the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum.