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Royal Tyrrell Museum Update #4: Field Results
I have just returned from my first 10 days of fieldwork at Dinosaur
Provincial Park, Alberta, Canada and would like to share the results of what
is, as usual, shaping up to be an excellent field season; hey I got 6
tyrannosaurid teeth on my first day out! I'll be there for three months, so
expect regular updates on this topic. Oh, where do I start? O.K.:
1. A new ceratopsian bonebed was discovered in the Oldman formation (Fm.)
in the Park. This formation underlies the Dinosaur Park Fm. where all the
classic dinosaur discoveries have beeen made in the past. The Oldman Fm. has
yielded very few dinosaurs in the past. I have not seen the bonebed itself
but I am assured there is an articulted skull present. Eroded out frill
pieces of this indicated a short-frilled (centrosaurine) form, but among the
fragments was what appeared to be the end of a long orbital horncore such as
found in long-frilled (chasmosaurine) ceratopsians. Interesting.....
2. I found a fragmentary metatarsus of the rare small theropod ELMISARUS. I
was complete when buried long ago, but Mother Nature has had her recycling
fun with it and now it's busted up. The fused proximal end is there, along
with 2 metatarsal shafts and two distal metatarsal ends. I'm hoping for a
good rain so as to expose any other loose and hidden fragments which
hopefully will allow me to piece it all back together.
3. A lambeosaurine (crested) hadrosaur is finally being collected. It was
found in 1991 and slowly opened up in 1992, 1993, 1995. Since then it has
been a regular feature for Park bus tours, film crews and Tyrrell volunteer
training. It consists largely of a disarticulated torso, there are no hind
legs, tail, or head.
4. New ornithomimid. Yes, yet another one. I just saw this a couple nights
ago. Exposed are the distal ends of three slightly disarticulated
metatarsals and one unidentified long bone. Two pedal (foot) phalanges (toe
bones) were found nearby. This will be collected at some point but I don't
know when. It is a large ornithomimid.
5. While looking at #4 above we recovered the most beautiful pterosaur
cervical (neck) vertebra I've ever seen in the Park. I'm no pterosaur
expert, but it appears to be a Quetzalcoatlus. The bone is virtually
complete, absolutely uncrushed and surprisingly small- only 9 cm. long.
6. Bonebed (BB) 47. I'm running this all summer. It is a multigneric
bonebed, containing a wide assortment of disarticulated bones from many
different species of animals. As such, it presents us with a broad picture
of the entire ecosystem of the Park 76 million years ago. We are excavating
this to use as a comparison with the ceratopsian bonebeds we have worked the
past 15 years. We have no results to report yet as we just got down to the
bone layer when my days off started. Keep posted....
7. BB 91. This is a continuation and conclusion of a CENTROSAURUS bonebed
excavation started last year. Bone density is extremely high- up to 80 bones
per square metre.
8. New Ankylosaur. As part of a side fieldtrip, we went to the South
Saskatchewan River about 80 miles east of Dinosaur Park, near the town of
Hilda, Alberta. Due to extensive erosion, it is hard to tell what is going
on with this new armored dinosaur find. My impression is that most of it is
lost completely. However, there is one of those curved neck rings emerging
out of the hill and it is my hope that there will be another one further in
and then (fingers crossed), the skull. Looks like a EUOPLOCEPHALUS. Close by
I found what I think is a squamosal of the pachycephalosaurid GRAVITHOLUS.
We have an ankylosaur student (Matt Vickaryous) at Tyrrell, and he might be
collecting the ankylosaur in the fall.
9. On the same trip as #8 above, we relocated a CENTROSAURUS bonebed worked
in the mid-1960's by the paleontology department of the Provincial Museum of
Alberta in Edmonton (this department was the humble beginnings of the
present Royal Tyrrell Museum). We are trying to establish the whereabouts of
ceratopsian-dominated bonebeds in Alberta and elsewhere in North America.
Can you help? Based on our personal knowledge and published accounts, it
appears that Alberta has well over half of the known ceratopsian bonebed
deposits. Please advise me with detailed information if you know of any
other unpublished/unworked ceratopsian bonebeds.
10. I continue to collect hadrosaur caudal vertebrae for an eventual
pathology study. I'm collecting all caudal (tail) vertebrae that are
complete enough for a centrum length/width/height measurement. All vertebrae
will be plotted on graphs under different categories, ie.: proximal (base),
medial (middle) and distal (end) of tail; adult, subadult and juvenile;
whether pathological or not, and finally what type(s) of pathology were
observed. I've been picking up hadrosaur caudals since 1991 and have 40
average-sized cardboard boxes of them- with a guesstimated 2,500 centra or
complete vertebrae for study. The vertebrae are all over the Park, but at
what point do I say I have enough for an unbiased and relatively accurate
statistical study? 3,000, 5,000? Help!!
11. I continue to find good evidence of hatchling-sized hadrosaurs in the
Park. Previous contentions that hadrosaurs nested only in upland areas can
be put to rest once and for all.
Keep posted every 10-12 days for Royal Tyrrell Museum field season updates.
Darren Tanke, Technician, Dinosaur Research Program, Royal Tyrrell Museum
of Palaeontology, Drumheller, Alberta, 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 (9,719 entries as
of May 14, 1996).
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