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Phil Currie celebration, tyrant skin, and other things
I'm back from North of the Border with word about the Phil Currie surprise
party. Here are the particulars:
25 years ago, on July 5, 1976, Phil Currie started doing field work in the
Cretaceous of Alberta. This began his most excellent contributions to our
knowledge of Canadian dinosaurs, paleoecology, behavior, and much more.
22 years ago, on July 6, 1979, Darren Tanke went out to Alberta to work with
Phil. Darren's also made major contributions to Canadian dinosaur
paleontology (and of course paleopathology).
About 7 years ago, Darren got thinking about some sort of festschrift (for
those who don't know, this is a book dedicated to honor a particular
individual with contributions by their friends, colleagues, students, etc.)
for Phil Currie. After some time, he and Ken Carpenter and Bob Sloan of
Indiana University Press concieved of a new book honoring Phil's work. This
book had to be organized in "secret", as it were.
Additionally, Darren planned a surprise party for Phil's 25th anniversary in
the field, to be held at the Paticia Hotel's Bar and Steak Pit. (Patricia,
Alberta, is a little hamlet about 14 km from Dinosaur Provincial Park. At
the Steak Pit you order your cut of meat, which arrives to you raw. You
take it over to the grill, and cook it as you like it.). Although July 5,
2001 would have been the REAL 25th anniversary, this was a problem for
Americans (many of whom wanted to be home with their families on July 4).
So, despite the fact that July 6 was the start of the Calgary Stampede
(perhaps the biggest event in southern Alberta every year), and thus planes
and hotels were packed, the plan went ahead.
So, on the evening of the 6th, the bar at Patricia was packed by about 100
paleontologists, artists, technicians, other Royal Tyrrell Museum staff,
editors, benefactors, and other well-wishers. Jorn Hurum, theropod worker
from Norway, travelled the furthest. Past and present dinosaur-list members
there was Tracy Ford, George Olshevsky, me, Greg Paul, Nick Longrich, Ken
Carpenter, Mike Skrepnick, Judy Horan, and Darren Tanke. Other
paleo-notables included Hans Larsson, Rud Sadlier, John Lanzendorf, Bill
Abler, and Mike Caldwell. Apologies to those I didn't list.
Anyway, we had all gathered together at the bar about 6 pm. At around 6:30
Phil and his wife (paleobotanist Eva Koppelhaus) drove up. Apparently
Currie, seeing all the cars outside, suggested they go elsewhere, but Eva
dragged him in. As he walked in and everyone shouted surprise!, he looked
stunned (probably the first time I've ever seen him surprised). After he
made his rounds shaking hands, Darren said a few words (okay, ten pages...)
of thanks and recognition and such, then brought Phil up to the podium,
where he was presented with a gift. "We all chipped in to get you this"
Darren said, or words to that effect.
Currie opened the book, saw it was one he didn't have, then (and you could
actually see this in his face) saw that the title was "Mesozoic Vertebrate
Life: New Research Inspired by the Paleontology of Philip J. Currie". Then
we all got to see Phil surprised again...
(Incidentally, Bob Sloan says that the book is now available for purchase
(from Indiana Univ. Press
(http://www.indiana.edu/~iupress/books/0-253-33907-3.shtml) or amazon).
Authors will be receiving their copies in the mail (he didn't have enough
space to carry that many copies. As George said last week, this is a
dinosaur must-have book!).
Then, after Lanzendorf said a few words, there was much eating, drinking,
rejoicing, and more. There were a LOT of cameras around, including video.
When my slides are back I'll see about scanning them and putting up a
On Saturday Phil was drafted... volunteered to lead a guided tour of some of
the sites at Dinosaur Provincial Park. For those who haven't been out on
the outcrops: it is really spectacular. The bone density is incredible: an
"average" bone bed (that is, one where they only record the presence of
bones, and pick up the rare ones) is the equivalent to one elsewhere that
people would be collecting every scrap. Throughout the day we saw the
remains (in some form or other) of tyrannosaurids, _Saurornitholestes_,
_Chirostenotes_, centrosaurines, hadrosaurids, ankylosaurids, crocs,
champsosaurs, turtles (several varieties), gars, and more. Much coolness.
Oh, and did get a chance to check with the tyrannosaurid skin impressions at
the RTMP. They do have mosaic scales, but these are smaller than those on
typical hadrosaurid or ceratopsid skin (actually, the collections specimen
is about as small-scaled as Gila monster scales). The two patches I saw
(one on display, one in collections) are not wrapped around bones (i.e., not
full blown "tyrant mummies"), but the association of the specimen in
collections is pretty secure. Currie says that the impressions on the type
of _Gorgosaurus_ (not recognized at first, only discovered a decade ago or
so) are even finer and somewhat more dispersed, which is why he said that
they had essentially "naked skin".
A great time, and I was glad to be a part of Phil Currie's celebration.
Here's for best wishes for the next 25 years!!
Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.
Department of Geology Director, Earth, Life & Time Program
University of Maryland College Park Scholars
College Park, MD 20742
Phone: 301-405-4084 Email: email@example.com
Fax (Geol): 301-314-9661 Fax (CPS-ELT): 301-405-0796