Dr. Victoria Arbour (BSc'06)

Dr. Victoria Arbour (BSc’06) with the skull of Zuul crurivastator in the Royal Ontario Museum palaeontology collections (Image: Danielle Dufault for Flare.com)

Dr. Victoria Arbour (BSc’06), a paleontologist and postdoctoral fellow at the Royal Ontario Museum and University of Toronto, is introducing the new Zuul crurivastator dinosaur to the world.

This dinosaur’s short snout, long horns behind the eyes and on the cheeks, and gnarly face resemble Zuul, a fictional monster from the 1984 film Ghostbusters who inspired the genus name. Dr. Arbour said she wanted the name to be evocative for people.

Dr. Arbour grew up in a family that supported her love for science. “I liked biology and learning how life works. I also took courses in geology because I wanted to understand what the earth is telling you when you’re walking around outside. As I pursued my studies in science, I worked really hard to make them line up with paleontology specifically,” she told Flare.com.

After completing her Bachelor of Science in geological and earth sciences from Dal, Dr. Arbour earned a Master of Science and PhD in paleontology from the University of Alberta. She has done extensive field work in Alberta and travelled to New Mexico, Utah, Argentina and the Gobi Desert in Mongolia for digs. Though she’s in the lab during the winter, come summer she’s back trekking through desserts and badlands, hiking and digging in the dirt for up to 12 hours a day. She still finds it very exciting to discover a fossil, and her enthusiasm for Zuul is unfettered.

Rare specimen

Zuul crurivastor (crurivastor means “destroyer of shins” and this dinosaur had a clubbed tail that was half its body length and lined with forbidding spikes) is estimated to have roamed the earth 75 million years ago.

The specimen was discovered in Montana while scientists were digging up another dinosaur. With careful excavation, scientists have the full skull, tail, body, armour and even some preserved soft tissue, Dr. Arbour said. Z. crurivastator weighed in around 5,500 pounds, or about the size of a white rhinoceros. Fearsome as it may have looked, this dinosaur was a plant eater.

Loves her job

Though she does work on dinosaurs, Dr. Arbour says it’s a common misconception that all paleontologists do. She explains that paleontology is more broadly the study of ancient life. She says she uses a bit of biology, chemistry, physics and geology and enjoys being well-rounded as a scientist that way.

You can follow Dr. Arbour on her blog or on Twitter @VictoriaArbour.

Read more in “What It’s Really Like To Dig Up Dinos—*Spoiler Alert* It’s Pretty Cool” on flare.com and “ROM scientists name new dinosaur species after Ghostbusters villain” on cbc.ca.