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Phil Currie's lecture

To: dinosaur@usc.edu
From: Ben Creisler (bh480@scn.org)
Subject: Phil Currie's lecture

Here are a few highlights of Phil Currie's recent lecture
in Seattle (5-24-99)--some items have been mentioned
in passing in Mailing List correspondence if I'm not
mistaken, but I hope a few at least will be fresh to somebody.

Sinosauropteryx "liver" really a cement stain
Phil was particularly scathing about a certain group
of researchers (whom he refused to name) who published
an article about the innards of Sinosauropteryx without
having seen the actual specimens. The dark stain that
supposedly represented the animal's liver turns out to
be a modern artifact left when cement was rather crudely used
to reattach bits of the fossil that had flaked loose--a close-up
slide clearly showed a normal-colored piece with a
somewhat ragged edge glued over the irregular dark spot.

Feather halos on Liaoning fossils
Phil also demolished claims that the feather-like features
that were preserved around Sinosauropteryx were remains
of a lizard-like dermal frill supposedly running along the
the animals midline. In fact, the skull is crushed so that
both eye sockets are visible and the roof of the skull
is flattened out--the dark halo is clearly NOT originating
along the midline of the skull. Instead that halo is
striking similar to the feather halo around Confuciusornis
specimens. In that case, the dark halos were left after
the animals bodied decayed, destroying the feathers
in direct contact with the body, leaving only the bones
and the trace of feathers that lay away from the body
on the substrate. Apparently the same process occurred
with the Sinosauropteryx specimens.

Burrowing Protoceratops
Phil doesn't buy the recently proposed "wet sand" theory
of how Mongolian dinosaurs were buried intact. Instead
of water-logged sand forming fast-moving, muddy slurries,
sand storms or a dry collapse seem more likely based on
his observations.
He also thinks Protoceratops may have been a burrowing
animal since specimens have been found with the tail curled
under--the critters may have burrowing deep into the sand
to get out the heat when the side of the dune slipped,
covering their heads and smothering those who could not
dig themselves out.

Feather Dinosaurs to be displayed at Tyrrell through summer.
Some of the specimens recently shown on the East Coast
will be on display at the Tyrrell Museum outside Drumheller
this summer, including Sinosauropteryx, Confuciusornis
and Caudipteryx.
There are still very tentative plans for some of the specimens
to be shown in Seattle some time in the future but I'm not
getting my hopes up too high at the moment.

"Dorf" confuciusornithids
Among the topics Phil discussed at the reception after his Seattle
lecture were the enterprising locals who have been unearthing all those
amazing fossils around Liaoning. It seems that nature's abundance
simply can't meet the world market demand--so fresh, NEWLY made
fossils have begun appearing.
On a recent trip to China, Phil was presented with an
amazing specimen that took a moment to grasp--an ancient bird with
metatarsals that articulated directly with the end of the femur!
Since this fossil undoubtedly represents a new taxon, I might
suggest the name Dorfornis, after Tim Conway's "Dorf" character--the
dorky guy who appears to have legs that end at the knee and stars
in brainless golf and fishing videos that are heavily advertised on cable TV.
I wonder who's been buying these....the fossils I mean.