Though most people view dinosaur bones in air-conditioned natural history museums, in the Canadian Badlands travelers can see them outside, where the fossils still poke out of the ground.
"Alberta is home to some of the world's richest fossil beds and draws tourists from around the world to experience authentic dinosaur adventures," said Francois Therrien, curator of dinosaur paleoecology at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, about 70 miles northeast of Calgary. It's Canada's only museum dedicated to paleontology and features three Tyrannosaurus rex skeletons and a 27-foot nose-to-tail Albertosaurus skeleton. "When you go on guided hikes in Dinosaur Provincial Park (140 miles east of Calgary), you go to places where it's impossible to take a step without crushing dinosaur bones under your feet," he added. But for the most part, "you walk in a path around them, so the bones are protected."
A new exhibit, "Alberta's Last Sea Dragon," features a 75-million-year-old reptile skeleton of an Elasmosaurus that had 76 neck vertebrae. It was discovered in southernmost Alberta during mining operations.
"(The display) is designed to show the public how paleontologists find the answers to a variety of questions about how the animal lived and died. It was found partly disarticulated (bones disconnected) and surrounded by lots of shark teeth. That tells paleontologists that the carcass rested at the bottom of the ocean for some time and was scavenged by sharks before being completely buried and fossilized. Rounded pebbles found in the rib cage were swallowed by the animal to help with digestion — to break down fishes that it swallowed whole," Therrien said.
Royal Tyrrell Museum, 888-440-4240, tyrrellmuseum.com