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Royal Tyrrell Museum Update #9: Fieldwork

 The 1996 field season to Dinosaur Provincial Park has now been concluded.
Here's the latest.

 1. Bonebed 47. The multigeneric bonebed still has about 30% more work to be
done to completely finish excavating the study area. I spent 3 months in
there frustrated at finding small eroded bone pieces, and small, isolated
teeth. So imagine my delight (on the third last day no less) finding a
complete LEIDYOSUCHUS crocodile skull 37 centimetres long! Patience pays
off1 The skull is perfect and uncrushed, no lower jaws or postcrania. Our
ankylosaur student Matt Vickaryous had never seen any fossil skull uncovered
before and watched spellbound as I spent 2.5 hours completely uncovering the
specimen. When I asked him to go back to camp for cameras, he did so-
running cross-country through the hilly badlands just under 1 mile to the
truck, driving on windy roads about 3.5 miles to camp, grabbing the cameras,
informing our crew, driving back and then running back breathless to Bonebed
47 in an astounding 39 minutes! This skull got some local media coverage.
Dr. Wu at Tyrrell is going to start a study on fossil crocodilians, so this
will be a good addition to our collections and his study. We now have 3
LEIDYOSUCHUS skulls in RTMP collections. A photo of this new skull may
appear in a future updated Tyrrell Museum homepage. 

 2. New Tyrannosaur. Still unfinished. We pulled out a massive plaster block
containing the pelvis, base of tail and some leg bones. A tibia, tail and
ribs are going back into the wall and this will have to be finished off next
year. We got the block out on the flat areas by putting the block on a
plywood sheet and having 6 short lengths of telephone pole underneath to act
as rollers. As the block was pulled and moved forward, people had to run to
the back and grab a heavy pole section and replace it to the front of the
plywood sheet. This way we were able to move a 1,500 block about 10-12 feet
per 30 seconds. I'm sure we did the ancient Egyptians proud.....

 3. Bird femur. Got a complete bird right femur just under 8.5 cms. long.
This is the first fossil bird bone I've ever secured from DPP.

 4. New ankylosaurs. Ankylosaur fans hold onto your hats. Earlier I had
noted the discovery of a new ankylosaur east of Dinosaur Park, along the
Alberta/Saskatchewan border. As you read this, a crew of 3 are doing about 4
days work on this. But now we have more ankylosaurs! 2 new skeletons have
turned up. One is just north of Drumheller. It is a EUOPLOCEPHALUS. There is
a skull which was sticking out of the hill. More bone is present and it
looks like a greater portion of the skeleton is still "in situ" (in the rock
where it was buried). This is to be worked on next year. The second specimen
I located in Dinosaur Park. I found about 5 scutes in situ and upside-down
as is typical for ankylosaur carcasses which evidently floated upside-down
in the Cretaceous river systems. Down the hill are numerous limb bone
fragments, caudal vertebrae, etc. It may be most of the animal's ventral
body region has eroded away, leaving us mostly with armor in situ. If so
that would be nice as the proper placement of the body armor in ankylosaurs
has been difficult to reconstruct in the past (see Ken Carpenter's excellent
papers in past issues of the Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences). Matt
Vickaryous and I went to the site during a rainy day and we got filthy dirty
and muddy getting there. He says the armor looks like EUOPLOCEPHALUS. I've
been with RTMP over 16 years and we never found any ankylosaur skeletons-
this year we got three. Ain't life strange? It is our experience that once
we take on a student of a particular topic- specimens of interest to him/her
suddenly turn up during their stay with us, or once they leave (usually
being found a week or two after their departure). Therefore I think we
should take on some pterosaur and small theropod students and increase our
luck in finding such rarities in the future! :)

 5. New ceratopsian. While my work in Dinosaur Park is over, I have to go
and collect  a ceratopsian skeleton from the S.E. corner of the province
near the town of Manyberries. In 1990, I collected a partial ceratopsian
skull from the same locality. While incomplete, this subadult skull appeared
similar to the new ceratopsians Scott Sampson described recently in JVP.
Last year, one of our crew found a hind leg and some vertebrae eroding out
of the same hill. So, either the head I collected in 1990 fits onto this
skeleton, or it's another skeleton entirely. Clive Coy, Ken Kucher and I
will be heading down there on or about Sept. 26th. RTMP has NEVER collected
a good ceratopsian skeleton, only one "ass-end" in 1982 (the first quarry I
ran). A film-maker will be taking some film sequences of this excavation. He
is also planning on doing a complete time-lapse sequence of the quarry from
start to finish- So, you should be able to see the outcrop from the very
start, overburden removal, bones uncovered, plaster jackets made, plaster
blocks removed and quarry cleaned up in a 2-3 minute sequence. Of course
we'll be running around like a bunch of ants in such a sequence. 

 6. Fall, winter, spring fossil preparation. It is still a bit early to
delve into this in detail, although I have recently learned I will be
preparing a mostly complete and disarticulated subadult DASPLETOSAURUS
tyrannosaur skull we collected about three years ago from Dinosaur
Provincial Park. Much of the postcrania was there too- but it was evident
that this part of the body had been trampled/scavenged as most of the pieces
were badly broken up.
7. KONGLONG exhibit. This exhibit of Canadian and Chinese dinosaurs is up
until Oct. 15th of this year. There might be an extension- I'll let you know
if this happens.

 That's it!

 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 (9,798 entries as
of June 23, 1996).