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Tyrrell Museum preparation lab update #1.
Well finally at long last I've gotten around to putting together the first
of the promised updates on dinosaurian-related activities at the Royal
Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology (RTMP), Drumheller, Alberta. Thankyou for
those who took the time to add their comments as to how they would like to
see such an information package presented.
First, I should explain the numbering system and writing styles which I
will follow in this and upcoming updates.
1. Our numbering system. Each museum has their own fossil cataloguing
system, so I thought it prudent to outline ours here, as I will use it in
RTMP is the Tyrrell Museum acronym. 96 is 1996, the year the
fossil/skeleton was first found, or, in most cases, the year of collection.
123 represents the site number. In my communications, I will refer to the
site or locality by place name. 456 is the specimen number. So, RTMP
96.123.456 means- the 456th specimen collected from site 123 in 1996.
2. Writing style.
?Centrosaurus, etc.= the use of the question mark signifies we believe the
specimen to be a Centrosaurus, etc. but we are not completely sure at time
cf.Centrosaurus= cf. means enough of the specimen has been exposed in the
field or lab to give us a tentative identification. Further bone exposure
and study will confirm or deny this identification.
Centrosaurus= If I use the species and/or genus name, this means we are
certain of the identification based on the latest knowledge.
3. Information service. One respondant thought I might be getting myself
into more than I figured; he thought I'd be swamped with emails wanting more
data. I provide this column as an information service only. Based on
response, I might answer general questions within the body of future
updates, but don't count on personal responses to questions.
4. Technical jargon will be kept to a minimum as I realize we are speaking
to a mixed audience. However, I may slip up from time to time. Any
references to "jacket(s)" or "block(s)" means the plaster/burlap field jacket.
That aside, here goes:
For any saurischian dinosaur fans out there, this is probably the most
exciting period of time at the RTMP preparation labs in many years. The
following specimens are being worked on:
1. cf. Struthiomimus, RTMP 90.26.1. This was probably a perfect skeleton
when first buried. Erosion has removed all of the tail and eroded the pelvis
on one side. The neck was flipped back over the back as seen in the famous
American Museum panel mounted Struthiomimus. A half loop of the neck was
lost to erosion where it protruded out of the hill then looped back into the
hill again. The lower half of the right hind leg was eroded away. The skull
is absolutely perfect and virtually uncrushed. It has been almost completely
freed of the hard white sandstone matrix (with perfect separation from the
bone). It seems like a dream when you hold the perfect 3-D skull in your
hands; you can't help but thinking "This can't really be happening" :). The
rest of the skeleton is virtually perfect, including the perfectly
articulated gastralia or "belly ribs". This skeleton was collected a few
miles east of Drumheller, near the town of Rosedale, and just above the
marine Bearpaw Formation/terrestrial Horseshoe Canyon Formation contact.
RTMP technician Ken Kucher is working on this specimen.
2. cf. Ornithomimus, RTMP 95.110.1. This specimen made the headlines last
summer in Canada and may have also made it into the USA. Nothing was
protruding from the hill. A RTMP paleobotany team were jackhammering towards
a new plant locality when they accidently found the anterior chest region.
The jackhammer bit missed piercing the skull through the eye socket by mere
inches. Our team uncovered a virtually complete skeleton missing only the
left femur, left arm, all fingers off the right hand and most of the pedal
phalanges (two of the toes that were buried the deepest were complete). The
gastralia basket is also complete and undisturbed. The paleobotany crew
moved aside 15 feet and renewed their digging efforts and succeeded in
finding the missing left femur. After that they were +@#$%^- off and left
for good. The skull on this specimen is complete and has been prepared on
one side at time of writing. Extensive CT scans have been made to assist us
in preparing the other side which appears to have the braincase region
cracked to some degree. RTMP technician Clive Coy is working on this
specimen. It was collected from Dinosaur Provincial Park, low in section of
the Dinosaur Provincial Park Formation.
3. As for me, I spent the fall and early winter preparing a complete
Euoplocephalus skull, RTMP 91.127.1. It is complete, uncrushed, but with no
teeth. Excellent CT scans were obtained after preparation.
Presently I'm working on a panel mount of a juvenile Albertosaurus
libratus, RTMP 91.36.500. It was collected from Dinosaur Provincial Park.
This is being mounted almost as found- in its death pose, with the top of
the head laying parallel with the top of the ilium. I guess I'm biased, but
I think it will be the most spectacular exhibit in the RTMP galleries. This
small specimen (16 ft., 10 inches overall) is also virtually complete. All
that was missing was the left forelimb, 2/3rds of the gastralia, a few
chevrons and about 6 pedal phalanges. The pubis and ischia were eroded off
and restored. The skull is perfect and has been completely freed of matrix.
This mount is slated to go on exhibit for the May, 1996 long weekend.
I'm also working on a ?Albertosaurus braincase, RTMP 91.163.1. This is part
of an associated skeleton we collected on the Battle River, near Brownfield,
Alberta- from one of the most northerly Campanian-aged outcrops in Alberta.
While much of the body was present (tail missing for sure), the bone
preservation is poor, probably due to it being exposed near the surface,
where groundwater, frost and plant roots have churned the sediment up. About
85% of a completely disarticulated skull was recovered, but despite being
better fossilized (harder bone) the skull elements are somewhat cracked and
4. One of the large Hypacrosaurus egg blocks from Devil's Coulee, Alberta
(RTMP 95.178.1) was opened last fall but has not been worked on recently due
to the departure of one of our contract people. A few embryonic bones are
showing, but the eggs are still under a foot of matrix. I have not seen this
specimen in the field, but was told it was one of the better egg/nest
discoveries found there. Hopefully, this block will get worked on this
summer and I can report accordingly.
I will be bringing polaroids and snapshots of some of these specimens to
Dinofest'96- hope to see you there!
Darren Tanke, Technician I, Dinosaur Research Program, Royal Tyrrell Museum
of Palaeontology, Drumheller, AB, Canada. Paleo Interests: fossil
identification, collection and preparation, centrosaurine ceratopsians,
Upper Cretaceous vertebrate faunas of North America and East Asia,
paleopathology; senior editor on annotated bibliography of extinct/extant
vertebrate dental pathology, osteopathy and related topics (9,328 entries as
of March 20, 1996).
Osteopathy Bibliography Homepage at: http://dns.magtech.ab.ca/dtanke