Uncovering the stories behind the Dinos of Canada stamps

Posted on May 28, 2015 by @canadapostcorp in Mail and more

Step back in time 66 million years to see the amazing prehistoric creatures that once ruled the land we now call Canada. From the terrifying T. rex to gentle plant-eaters and aquatic animals, these beasts now roam our country through the mail, on the Dinos of Canada stamps.

Brought back to life by Vancouver-based paleoartist Julius Csotonyi and Toronto stamp designer Andrew Perro, each of these fearsome creatures was chosen with the support of the Canadian Museum of Nature.

Shop the Dinos of Canada stamp collection.

Here we reveal the stories behind the 4 dinosaurs and 1 mosasaur on the stamps. We also give you an exclusive look at the process that biologist and illustrator Csotonyi went through to create his remarkable images. Compare an early sketch of each dino with the final illustration and an image of the animal in its habitat.

Tyrannosaurus rex

(tye-ran-oh-sore-us recks)

Tyrannosaurus

When you hear the word dinosaur, the first one that probably comes to mind is the fearsome, famous tyrant king Tyrannosaurus rex. This ferocious meat-eater ruled North America about 66 million years ago, making a meal out of any dinosaur it fancied—sometimes even its own species.

One of the largest and most complete T. rex skeletons ever discovered was unearthed in Eastend, Saskatchewan in 1991 and has been nicknamed “Scotty.” A high school teacher made the discovery while on an expedition with Royal Saskatchewan Museum palaeontologists. Fossilized T. rex droppings (called coprolite) were also found in Eastend. A rare find, the droppings showed that the T. rex had recently been snacking on a young dinosaur, likely a duck-billed species or possibly a horned dinosaur, like Triceratops.

  • Discovered: 1902
  • Location: Alberta, Saskatchewan and the United States
  • Size: 12 metres long; 8 tonnes
  • Period: Late Cretaceous, 66-68 million years ago
  • Habitat: Alluvial plain

Tylosaurus pembinensis

(tie-lo-sore-us pem-bih-nen-sis)

Tylosaurus

How did a marine reptile like Tylosaurus pembinensis end up in Manitoba? About 80 million years ago a large inland sea covered the Canadian prairies, extending from the arctic through the middle of North America to the Gulf of Mexico. Tylosaurus pembinensis was a mosasaur, not a dinosaur, but it was just as dangerous in the water as T. rex was on land. This king of the sea patrolled the water, preying on aquatic creatures such as fish, ammonites and even other mosasaurs. The terrifying Tylosaurus pembinensis was able to open its enormous jaws wide, like a snake, to swallow large prey whole.

The largest mosasaur skeleton in the world is a Tylosaurus pembinensis nicknamed “Bruce” that is on display at the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre in Morden, Manitoba.

  • Discovered: 1974
  • Location: Manitoba
  • Size: 14 metres long; 4 tonnes
  • Period: Late Cretaceous, 80 million years ago
  • Habitat: Shallow inland seaway

Ornithomimus edmontonicus

(or-nith-o-mime-us ed-mon-toe-nih-cus)

Ornithomimus

The Ornithomimus edmontonicus was from a family of speedy dinosaurs. Some of its long-legged relatives are thought to have run as fast as 60 km/h. Ornithomimus used its speed to outrun predators and to chase down prey of its own, such as small lizards and mammals. But this dinosaur wasn’t a picky eater: It would make a meal out of insects, crustaceans, eggs, fruit, leaves and branches too.

Did you know some dinosaurs had feathers? Scientists recently identified the first feather impressions on a Canadian dinosaur—an Ornithomimus edmontonicus now on display at the Royal Tyrell Museum of Paleontology in Drumheller, Alberta. However, Ornithomimus was too big to fly and likely used its wings for display, like a peacock.

  • Discovered: 1916
  • Location: Alberta
  • Size: 3.8 m long; 88 kg
  • Period: Late Cretaceous, 72-69.5 million years ago
  • Habitat: Coastal plain

Euoplocephalus tutus

(yu-oh-plo-seff-ah-lus toot-us)

Euoplocephalus

On a typical day in the Late Cretaceous period, about 75 million years ago, you could find Euoplocephalus tutus grazing the plains of Alberta, peacefully feeding on low herbs. Until a meat-eating predator came along, that is. Then the Euoplocephalus would brace itself on thick legs and swing the mighty club on its tail, delivering crippling blows to fend off its attacker.

The name Euoplocephalus tutus means “well-armoured head.” In fact, this giant herbivore had bony plates of armour protecting its head, back, sides and tail. Even its eyelids were covered in hard bone. Euoplocephalus tutus was one of the first Canadian dinosaurs to be scientifically described, and its original remains are in the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa.

  • Discovered: 1897
  • Location: Alberta
  • Size: 6 m long; 2.8 tonnes
  • Period: Late Cretaceous, 76.5-75 million years ago
  • Habitat: Coastal plain

Chasmosaurus belli

(kaz-muh-saw-rus bell-eye)

Chasmosaurus

Don’t be fooled by the large frill behind its head: this horned dinosaur was a gentle giant, like its close relative, the Triceratops. Chasmosaurus beli grazed the plains of Alberta about 76 million years ago, feeding on low, woody herbs and shrubs. Its frill may have been used to cool its body on hot days or simply for display, but wasn’t likely used for defense. Instead, the Chasmosaurus had to stick together in herds, finding safety in numbers the best protection from the meat-eaters of the day.

We’ll soon know more about the young of the herd, thanks to a discovery in Dinosaur Provincial Park, Alberta. University of Alberta palaeontologists recently unearthed the fossil of a baby Chasmosaurus with an almost completely intact skeleton still covered in skin impressions.

  • Discovered: 1898
  • Location: Alberta
  • Size: 5.2 m long; 4.1 tonnes
  • Period: Late Cretaceous, 76 million years ago
  • Habitat: Coastal plain

What’s your favourite dinosaur or other prehistoric creature? Share your comments below.

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