As a result of the 2013 floods in southern Alberta, the remains of a potential new species of a Late Cretaceous (100 – 66 million years old) duck-billed dinosaur was retrieved from Castle River by Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology staff.

 

Earlier this summer, fossil material was reported to the Museum by two men fishing along Castle River. The size of block (approx. 1300 kg) makes it reasonable to think the specimen was dislodged from a section of river bank far upstream by the unusually high river flow rates and levels during the summer of 2013. “Based on the eroded and exposed teeth, as well as its size, we are confident that it is a hadrosaurian dinosaur,” explains Dr. Donald Henderson, Curator of Dinosaurs. “These animals were very common in Cretaceous Alberta, but this is an entirely new area to find dinosaurs for us, and gives us hope that we might find more in the future.” The retrieved specimen will undergo research by Museum scientists over the next several months to determine whether it is also a new species.

“It is rather surprising that any part of dinosaur fossil could survive being tumbled in a river full of cobbles and boulders,” says Henderson; therefore, we needed to quickly remove the specimen from the river system to save it for scientific research. Due to the precarious location of the block in the river, the specimen needed to be airlifted by helicopter.

Image: A cross section of the hadrosaur skull showing many rows of teeth.

 
Owned and operated by Alberta Culture and Tourism, the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology is located six kilometres northwest of Drumheller on Highway 838. For more information visit tyrrellmuseum.com or call 403-823-7707 (dial 310-0000 for toll-free access within Alberta).

Media inquiries may be directed to:

Carrie-Ann Lunde
Head, Marketing & Public Relations
Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology
T: 403-820-6208 | E: carrie.lunde@gov.ab.ca
Box 7500, Drumheller, Alberta T0J 0Y0 Canada
http://www.tyrrellmuseum.com

New paper published on the marine reptile Mosasaurus missouriensis preserved with first evidence of stomach contents

July 11, 2014

The July 2014 issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology publishes the culmination of several years of research by Dr. Takuya Konishi, Postdoctoral Fellow at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology.

TakuyaWSpecimen

Dr. Takuya Konishi, Postdoctoral Fellow at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology with Mosasaurus missouriensis on display.

The paper discusses a Mosasaurus missouriensis specimen found in 2008 by Korite International during its ammolite mining operation south of Lethbridge, Alberta. The exquisitely preserved specimen provides the first evidence of what this type of mosasaur looked like, what it ate, how it co-existed with other predatory mosasaurs, and how it behaved.

Mosasaurus missouriensis

Mosasaurus missouriensis

Mosasaurs were highly successful apex predators in the Cretaceous Period aquatic ecosystems—more than 60 kinds of mosasaurs are known to have lived 95 – 65 million years ago. They were the only lizards to have evolved a fish-like anatomy with two pairs of well-developed flippers for steering and a shark-like tail for swimming through the waters.

The specimen, now on display at the Royal Tyrrell Museum, preserves the remains of its last meal—a one-metre-long fish. The fish braincase shows a puncture wound, the same size and shape of the mosasaur’s tooth, indicating this animal used its sharp teeth to dismember fish larger than its head, rather than swallowing its prey whole. The preserved gut contents also indicate that Mosasaurus, with its narrow head and slender jaws, preferred soft prey. They contrasted in food habits with the other aquatic predator of the time, Prognathodon: with its wide head and deep jaws, the latter mosasaur consumed hard, as well as soft prey, allowing the two predators to coexist in the same ecosystem.

CloseupStomachContents

Mosasaurus missouriensis stomach contents

Remarkably, due to rapid burial after death, this specimen preserves the rare fossilization of soft tissue—an intact trachea (windpipe) and a good portion of the sternum (chest plate). This is the first time that soft tissue has been found in this type of mosasaur.

Chest plate (sternum) and windpipe

Chest plate (sternum) and windpipe

You can see the specimen in the Alberta Unearthed gallery at the Royal Tyrrell Museum.

For media inquiries, please contact:
Carrie-Ann Lunde
Head, Marketing & Public Relations
T: 403-820-6208 | E: carrie.lunde@gov.ab.ca

4fossils

Palaeontological resources in Alberta are protected under the Historical Resources Act. This not only includes fossils, but also palaeontological significant sites. There are three sites designated in the province: the Willow Creek Hoodoos, Grande Cache Trackways, and Devil’s Coulee Dinosaur Egg Site (Devil’s Coulee). The Resource Management program at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology (RTMP) manages the protection and public use at these sites. I am going to discuss some of the changes that we have recently made at Devil’s Coulee to improve the protection of, and the visitor experience at, the site.

Devil’s Coulee is the richest dinosaur nesting site found in Canada and the third nesting site discovered in North America. The site was found in May 1987 near Warner, Alberta and was designated a Provincial Historic Resource same year due to its significance. Finds at the site include young dinosaurs, eggs, embryonic bones, and nests of hadrosaurs, as well as fossils from other types of animals from 75 million years ago. With the significant discoveries and the ongoing research producing new discoveries, the site is very sensitive in nature.

Since the mid-1990s, the RTMP has worked with the Devil’s Coulee Cooperating Society and its museum in Warner to provide tours to the site. Over the past two years, we have been working to find a balance between protection at Devil’s Coulee and quality visitor experiences. Currently, the site is only accessible through a guided tour. This will continue as a form of protection from theft and vandalism, but also as a way to provide an enhanced visitor experience. Improvements have been made to training the tour guides to increase their knowledge of fossils, geology, and dinosaurs. As many of the fossils are very small, we are also developing a dedicated path for the guides to follow, and will install a low fence in the most sensitive areas to ensure that fossils are not inadvertently destroyed during tours.

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The RTMP is updating photos on the signs and creating a relevant story line for the hike to follow. One sign will even include touch specimens of eggshell. People who visit the site can also take part in an activity to search for fossils at a microsite. We are adding a fossil box for people to identify the fossils they find to ones in the box. This provides the opportunity to see and touch real fossils. However, it is important to note that as a designated site, removal of fossils from Devil’s Coulee is illegal. Visitors are informed of this and the tour guides carefully monitor all activities to prevent theft. We hope that with the guides, signs, and activities we will accommodate a number of learning styles so that everyone enjoys their visit.

We are happy to be able to run tours out to a sensitive site such as this and provide a variety of interpretive activities, while still maintaining the integrity of the site. Implementation of the new protective and interpretive elements is still in progress, but should be ready for visitors to enjoy by May 2015. If you would like more information about tours at Devil’s Coulee you can visit the Devil’s Coulee Dinosaur Heritage Museum website: www.devilscoulee.com

Jen Bancescu

Resource Management

Triprojectate Pollen Occurrences in the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin and the Group’s Global Relationships

Triprojectate Pollen Occurrences in the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin and the Group’s Global Relationships

My research is different from other palaeontologists working at the Royal Tyrrell Museum. I study part of a living life cycle; organic-walled microfossils like plant spores and pollen, fungal spores, and algae. These microscopic fossils are scooped up with sediment, bathed in acid to dissolve unwanted materials, mounted on slides, and examined closely under a microscope. Thousands of these fossils can fit on a single slide, which means I have more fossil evidence of the past than other kinds of palaeontologists can amass in a lifetime.

As a palynologist, I have discovered more than 500 different species of ancient plants from Dinosaur Provincial Park alone, have named approximately 45 new species, and have collected over 6000 samples from localities around the world. My research into the plant life at the Cretaceous-Palaeogene boundary, 66 million years ago, provides evidence that plant communities at the time were changing in response to environmental changes.

My newly published book, Triprojectate Pollen Occurrences in the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin and the Group’s Global Relationships, is the result of decades of my research. It’s the most definitive, comprehensive look at triprojectate pollen in the world. It brings together research results from numerous localities over a broad geographical area and provides a catalogue of illustrated specimens. The material is placed within an informal classification system developed to handle the large number of described triprojectate species. An extensive literature search has produced a comprehensive list of described taxa from around the world and English descriptions are provided for all the taxa along with figured diagrams. The stratigraphic ranges of the recovered species from Western Canada are documented. Three new genera and 30 new species are described in this publication. A number of holotype specimens previously published from the region are re-illustrated. This book is the first major publication that brings together the dispersed literature on the group and should be of interest to any researcher studying triprojectates.

What are triprojectate pollen and why are they important?

Triprojectate pollen are a group of pollen from angiosperms (flowering plants) that are now extinct. We do not know what they looked like, or what they are related to. The pollen is common in the Late Cretaceous, changes rapidly through time so they are useful for dating, and is mainly restricted to a northern floral province that includes northern China, eastern Russia, northern Japan, Alaska, northern Canada, western North America from Colorado northwards through Canada, Greenland, and northern North Sea Basin.

Copies of the book are available from the Royal Tyrrell Museum Cooperating Society.
Telephone Orders: 1-403-823-8899
Fax Orders: 1-403-823-2102
Orders by email: shop@tyrrellmuseumshop.com
Cost is $99.95 plus shipping (CAD)

-Dennis R. Braman, Ph.D.
Research Scientist, Palynology

The beauty of Alberta ammonite shell makes it a prized target for amateur and commercial fossil collectors. What many collectors don’t realize is that the rules for collecting ammonite shell are different than they are for any other type of fossil in Alberta due to their commercial and First Nations significance.

The difference is that you cannot surface collect ammonite shell in Alberta. The provincial ministries Alberta Energy and Alberta Culture regulate collecting them on lands where the Crown owns the minerals. The first step to get permission to collect ammonite shell on Crown Land is to apply to Alberta Energy for an Ammonite Shell Agreement (http://www.energy.alberta.ca/minerals/718.asp#ammonite).

Next is to apply to Alberta Culture for an exemption of section 30(1) of the Historical Resources Act. These applications are processed by the Land Use Planning Program of the Historic Resources Management Branch and can be obtained by contacting George Chalut at george.chalut@gov.ab.ca. You have four months to apply for the exemption after receiving your Ammonite Shell Agreement or Alberta Energy may cancel your Agreement.

Permission to collect ammonite shell on freehold mineral title lands is administered only by Alberta Culture. There is no need to contact Alberta Energy or to obtain an Agreement, but you must have an exemption of section 30(1) of the Historical Resources Act by contacting George Chalut.
Another critical step, which is not administered by the Government of Alberta, is to obtain surface rights access. A prospective collector must contact the surface rights holder/landowner to obtain permission to access the property. On freehold mineral title lands, you must also contact the mineral titleholder and seek permission to collect ammonite shell.

Once you have received all the appropriate approvals and permissions, you can begin collecting ammonite shell. The type of collecting, and where you can collect, along with any other requirements will be detailed in your exemption of section 30(1) of the Historical Resources Act.
Even after the fossils have been collected, they are still property of the Crown, so they cannot be sold, traded, altered, or removed from Alberta. To get ownership, you must apply to Alberta Culture for disposition. The Resource Management Program at the Royal Tyrrell Museum manages the fossil Disposition Process and all requests for information and application forms can be sent to me at dan.spivak@gov.ab.ca.

To initiate the Process, you must submit an application for the Disposition of Palaeontological Resources, along with photos of the ammonite shell for which you are seeking disposition. This application process is free.

Once the application is received here, it is reviewed by Resource Management staff for completeness and entered into our database. If it is complete, with all relevant information, signatures, and photographs, the application is sent to one of our curators for review. The curator will review the photographs and determine if any of the fossils are scientifically significant. Any significant fossils will be removed from the disposition process and must be sent to the Royal Tyrrell Museum to become part of the Provincial Collection.

After this review, the application is returned to the Resource Management Program where the Disposition Certificate is drafted. The application and certificate are sent to the Assistant Deputy Minister of the Heritage Division (Alberta Culture) for final approval. Once signed, the Resource Management Program drafts a letter explaining the results of the Disposition Process. This letter is returned to you with the approved application form and Disposition Certificate.

When the Disposition Process is complete, you become the legal owner of the ammonite shell approved for disposition. You are now free to sell, trade, or alter the ammonite shell as you like. It is important to remember that there may be federal export issues to address before the ammonite shell can be exported from Canada. Go to http://www.pch.gc.ca/eng/1358364893642/1358365043241 for more information.

One of the most stunning ammonite specimens discovered in Alberta. On display at the Royal Tyrrell Museum.

One of the most stunning ammonite specimens discovered in Alberta. On display at the Royal Tyrrell Museum.

-Dan Spivak
Head, Resource Management Program

Bonebed 30 (BB30) in Dinosaur Provincial Park, near Brooks, Alberta, is about the size of a football field. It contains tens of thousands of fossil bones from the horned dinosaur, Centrosaurus apertus that were buried by a coastal flood 76 million years ago. Although there are hundreds of bonebeds in Dinosaur Provincial Park, only a small fraction of the bonebeds dominated by large (>5cm) fossil bones have been systematically excavated.

When we are excavating fossils, we aren’t just concerned with what animal(s) they are from and what part of the animal they represent; the locations and relationships among the bones are also very important. To map the site, a baseline is established to provide a frame of reference for the excavations in the bonebed. From this baseline, a one-metre by one-metre coordinated grid is established.

A one-metre by one-metre coordinated grid is used to map the bonebed.

A one-metre by one-metre coordinated grid is used to map the bonebed. Photo courtesy: Jess Smith

As each bone is exposed from the rock, we map its location on the map sheet for the map grid square where the bone is found, and record data about each bone including what animals the fossil came from (e.g., Centrosaurus, Gorgosaurus), what the fossil is (e.g., femur, parietal, tooth), which grid square it was found in (e.g., A2), the orientation, depth and plunge of the bone, and any other notes that can be observed in the field (tooth marks, missing fragments, abrasion, etc.). The orientation of the bone is whether the bone is horizontal, vertical, sub-horizontal, or, less frequently, sub-vertical. The trend of the bone is measured for long bones like limbs bones or ribs and indicates the long axis of the bone relative to north (e.g., 140°-320° would represent a trend of roughly northwest-southeast). If the majority of the long bones are deposited along the same general trend, this can indicate that the fossils were deposited under the influence of flowing water. Depth indicates how far the bone is below the baseline. If the larger, heavier bones were deposited lower than the smaller, lighter bones, this also suggests a fluvial (river channel) influence on the deposition of the bones. If the bone orientations and trends are widely variable with small and large bones all jumbled up together, this indicates a very different picture of the depositional history of the bonebed.

The baseline for this excavation in BB30 is 5.51 m long and runs west-east. On the map, the baseline is represented by the thick green line. The map area is divided into one meter squares, with the corners often marked with nails and flagging tape. The grid square is subdivided, using string, into 10 cm by 10 cm squares. Each grid square can be identified by a number and a letter—in the case of this map with letters A through D going from east to west along the baseline, and numbers 1 through 4 going from south to north away from the baseline. With a larger bonebed, more letters and numbers would be used. This map shows only a small portion of the bonebed. It was excavated during the summers of 2009 – 2012 by participants in the Guided Excavation Program, a public participation program operated jointly by Alberta Parks and the Royal Tyrrell Museum.

Bonebed 30 mapped and colour coded.

Bonebed 30 – mapped and colour coded.

For more information about the program go to: http://sales.tpr.alberta.ca/dpp/default.aspx?hview=bycategory&tagid=7

David Lloyd
Research Assistant

Megan and Jillian in the Distance Learning Studio

Megan and Jillian in the Distance Learning Studio

The Distance Learning Program is part of the Education section at the Royal Tyrrell Museum. Many schools across Alberta make the trek to Drumheller for field trips and participate in on-site educational programming, but there are many people who will never get the chance to visit the Museum in person. The Distance Learning Program was created so that anyone could get the chance to connect with an expert and learn about Alberta’s incredible palaeontology!

What is Distance Learning exactly? You’ve probably used Skype, Google Talk, or Face Time to video chat with friends and family. We use a different sort of technology to connect to schools, libraries, and other sites. Originally, we could only use videoconferencing equipment to connect to sites that also had this technology. But, there have been recent technology advancements so that you don’t need any specialized hardware – just a high-speed internet connection.

One of the great benefits of Distance Learning is the opportunity to speak with, and learn from, an expert. We have eight, 45-minute programs that range from a virtual tour of the galleries to a palaeo Q&A. For teachers, our programs are designed to cover core curriculum requirements and are delivered at an appropriate grade level. We use a variety of methods to bring the science of palaeontology to life: green screen technology that allows us to step in front of digital media, an overhead camera that allows us to show fossils up close, and a huge database of multimedia (images, videos, and animations) that help support our answers visually. Behind the scenes, we are a two-woman team, Megan McLauchlin (myself) and Jillian Steele. During a program, one of us presents while the other operates the technical equipment (lights, sound, and multimedia). This allows the presenter to focus on interacting with the audience and the other to concentrate on running the show!

So, how did the Distance Learning Program come about? In 2003, the Museum expanded its education space with the addition of the ATCO Tyrrell Learning Centre. Museum management realized the need for a dedicated space early on and so a Distance Learning Studio was included in the blueprints. In 2006, the Distance Learning Program was launched and now we’re in our eighth season of programming. To date, we have connected to over 40,000 students and have delivered over 1600 programs to Canada, the United States, and across the world!

We are always working on new ideas for programs and have a number of exciting projects that are in the development stages. Recently, we have been working on a Home Schooling Program where home schooled students will connect to us and other home schoolers for a three-program session. We are also adapting the Royal Tyrrell Museum Virtual Visit program to be suitable for people who are deaf and hard of hearing.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to send a big thank-you to all of the schools, teachers, former Distance Learning staff, and other supporters for making our award-winning Program the success that it is. Our plan is to keep pushing the boundaries of this technology and to bring the best interactive experiences to you.

Distance Learning is just another wonderful way to learn more about palaeontology from experts at the Royal Tyrrell Museum!

- Megan McLauchlin, Distance Learning Coordinator

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