Donald Henderson, Ph.D.

Curator of Dinosaurs

To understand what dinosaurs and marine reptiles were like as living animals, Donald Henderson creates computer-animated models. He has developed methods and software for analysis of floating animals, both living and extinct. Using this software, Donald's research has proven that sauropod dinosaurs could float. He has also developed a rigorous, numerical method for estimating body mass of extinct animals. This has allowed Donald to provide new body mass estimates for a range of different pterosaurs (flying reptiles).

Research Interests

  • What were animals of the past like as living animals?
  • The use of mathematics to study dinosaur locomotion.
  • Physics-based research to understand whether dinosaurs could float.
  • Estimating the body mass of extinct animals.
  • Rates of fossil erosion in Dinosaur Provincial Park.
  • Biomechanical comparisons of the bite forces and skull strengths of horned dinosaurs.

Professional Highlights

  • A lead researcher on Borealopelta markmitchelli, the world's best-preserved armoured dinosaur.
  • A lead researcher on the elasmosaur Albertonectes vanderveldei, which has the most neck vertebrae of any animal (76).
  • Developed computer software to test the floating capabilities of dinosaurs.
  • Discovered first evidence of iguanodontids in Alberta.


Ph.D., University of Bristol, 1999

B.Sc., University of Toronto, 1992


Recent Publications

Henderson, D. M. (2018). A buoyancy, balance and stability challenge to the hypothesis of a semi-aquatic Spinosaurus Stromer 1915 (Dinosauria: Theropoda). PeerJ. 

Mallon, J. C., Henderson, D. M., et al. (2018). A “bloat-and-float” taphonomic model best explains the upside-down preservation of ankylosaurs. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 497, 117-127.

Henderson, D. M. (2018). Using three-dimensional, digital models of pterosaur skulls for the investigation of their relative bite forces and feeding styles. In D. W. E. Hone, M. P. Witton & D. M. Martill (Eds.), New perspectives on pterosaur palaeobiology (25-44). London, UK: Geological Society of London.

Brown, C. M., Henderson, D. M., et al. (2017). An exceptionally preserved three-dimensional armored dinosaur reveals insights into coloration and Cretaceous predator-prey dynamics. Current Biology, 27, 2514-2521.

Henderson, D. M. (2017). The first evidence of iguanodontids (Dinosauria: Ornithischia) in Alberta, Canada: A fossil footprint from the Early Cretaceous. Cretaceous Research, 76, 28-33.

Selected Publications

Henderson, D. M. & Tanke, D. H. (2010). Estimating past and future dinosaur skeletal abundances in Dinosaur Provincial Park, Alberta, Canada. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, 47(10), 1291-1304.

Henderson, D. M. (2006). Burly gaits: Centers of mass, stability, and the trackways of sauropod dinosaurs. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 26(4), 907-921.

Henderson, D. M. (2003). Effects of stomach stones on the buoyancy and equilibrium of a floating crocodilian: a computational analysis. Canadian Journal of Zoology, 81, 1346-1357.

Henderson, D. M. (2004). Tipsy punters: Sauropod dinosaur pneumaticity, buoyancy and aquatic habits. Proceedings: Biological Sciences, 271(4), 180-183.

Henderson, D. M. (1999). Estimating the masses and centers of mass of extinct animals by 3-D mathematical slicing. Paleobiology, 25(1), 88-106.



Phone: 403-820-6218