Researchers say that a fossilized skull, found in southern Alberta, will help answer some questions about the evolution of horned dinosaurs.

Paleontologist Jordan Mallon found the fossil, belonging to a chasmosaurus, a horned cousin of triceratops, two years ago while doing fieldwork in the Hilda Badlands.

“We have other specimens of Chasmosaurus Canadensis to date. The only problem is that they tend to be historical specimens, collected maybe 100 years ago and, because they were collected so long ago, we don’t have good records about where they exactly came from in the rock record,” Mallon said.

Removing the fossil took a long time, officials say. First, workers coated the skull with plaster to protect it from the elements until it could be removed

They returned a year later to prepare the 2,000 pound skull to be lifted out by helicopter.

Mallon said he played a special part in the process too.

“I wanted to be the one responsible to hook the latch on and see that net lift off the ground. In case anything went wrong, it would be my fault. So, to actually see the lift happen successfully and see my dinosaur 50 feet in the air, it was just the greatest feeling. It was awesome.”

The skull was loaded onto a flatbed and transported to the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller where it will be packed into a crate to be shipped to Ottawa. Once it’s at the Canadian Museum of Nature, the rock and plaster will be removed so scientists can examine it.

Mallon says there is a lot that researchers can learn from the fossil.

“Most chasmosaurus have very short brow horns over the eyes and the thing that makes Chasmosaurus Canadensis interesting is the fact that it’s got very long brow horns over the eyes. There’s been debate over the years as to what that means. Maybe it’s male and the short horned ones are female; maybe it’s a different species. At this stage, we’re thinking it may be a different species and this skull here will help to clarify that matter.”

Now researchers are planning to do more work in the Hilda Badlands and say that a bone bed has been found nearby.

After researchers in Ottawa are done with the skull, it will be returned to Alberta where it will be put on display.

(With files from CTV Lethbridge’s Terry Vogt)