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Speaker Series

Non-avian theropods are among the closest extinct relatives to birds, but our understanding of their diversity, evolution, and extinction are greatly hampered by their incomplete fossil record. Isolated teeth from the Western Interior Basin, though, provide a continuous sample of these taxa through the last 18 million years of the Cretaceous.

In his talk, Larson explains how the morphology of these teeth can be examined both within a single formation to recognize patterns of evolution and across formations to examine changes in morphology through time.

The extinction of mammoths is the most prominent of Late Pleistocene extinctions that wiped out nearly 70% of large mammals (megafauna) from western Europe through South America about 10,000 years ago. However, on small islands off the coast of Alaska and Siberia, populations of mammoths persisted for many thousands of years after mainland populations disappeared.

In his talk, Dr. Duane Froese from the University of Alberta presents new research on the extinction of mammoths and other megafauna from Arctic North America and the causes of the final extinction of a population on St. Paul Island, Alaska, about 6000 years ago.

The study of ichnology, or trace fossils, is a fascinating field of geology that provides a window into the behaviour of ancient animals. While body fossils help us to understand the morphology of an animal, trace fossils (whether they are footprints, bite marks, or nests) provide evidence that allows us to make inferences about how they lived their lives. Ichnology’s modern counterpart, neoichnology, the study of extant (living) animal traces, demonstrates what types of traces may be preserved, as well as letting us watch how those traces are created.

Dr. Noad’s talk covers examples of trace fossils ranging from termite nests to shrimp burrows, bird feeding traces to fish fin marks, and even traces that are interpreted to be from dinosaur urination. It encompasses a wide variety of both invertebrates and vertebrates, from worms to dinosaurs to mammals. Once you see the amazing diversity of traces, each of which captures a unique aspect of animal activity, you will never look at a mark on the ground in quite the same way!

Recent volcanic activity in western Canada is not widely recognised, despite the occurrence of at least four important eruptions over the last 4,000 years. This is not surprising given the low eruption rates, the remoteness of Canadian volcanoes, and the low population density in volcanic areas.
One of the few events with any confirmed observations is that of the 1700’s eruption of the Tseax volcano (Wil Ksi Baxhl M’ihl) in British Columbia. Although no written records exist, a rich oral history describes in detail the most recent eruption of the volcano, one of Canada’s worst natural disasters.
The largest recent explosive eruption in Canada occurred 2400 years ago at the Mount Meager Volcanic Complex, 65 kilometres northwest of Pemberton, B.C. This eruption was similar in size to the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helen’s and sent ash over 530 kilometres east into Alberta.
In his presentation, Dr. Williams-Jones describes these historical volcanic eruptions and explain the importance of studying Canadian volcanoes to better understand their eruptive histories and forecast any future eruptions.

The discovery of the first feathered dinosaurs in 1998 irrevocably changed the perception of the physical appearance of dinosaurs. No longer the scaly reptiles of our imaginations, these animals were covered with feathers similar to birds. Since that first discovery, over 40 different species of dinosaurs are now known to have been covered with feathers and allow us to tackle the question: how did birds get their wings and learn to fly? Three main hypotheses have been proposed over the years to explain the origin of wings, all equally plausible and difficult to prove. However, the recent discovery of feathered ornithomimids in Alberta offers an unexpected alternative to explain why wings first evolved.

In his presentation, Dr. Therrien highlights these ornithomimid discoveries and explores their implications for the study of the evolution of wings.

On August 14, Dr. David Hone did a special lecture at the Royal Tyrrell Museum on tyrannosaurs.

His first book, The Tyrannosaur Chronicles: the Biology of the Tyrant Dinosaurs, tracks the rise of tyrannosaurs, the most famous and best-studied of all dinosaurs. This engaging book presents the science behind the research and tells the story of the evolution, anatomy, behaviour, and ecology of the over two dozen tyrannosaur species and how they fit into the world of the dinosaurs. Good for all ages, his talk is a fun exploration and debunks some popular misconceptions about tyrannosaurs.

Dr. Dave Hone, palaeontologist and writer, focuses his research on the behaviour and ecology of dinosaurs and flying reptiles— the pterosaurs. He also writes extensively online about palaeontology and science outreach, has a blog for the science pages of The Guardian, and is a regular contributor for other media outlets as a scientific consultant.

 

 

The final session of the 2016 Royal Tyrrell Museum’s Speaker Series is a presentation by Jeff Zimmer, Fish and Wildlife Officer for the Drumheller district with Alberta Justice and Solicitor General on Thursday, April 28.

The recent sighting of a cougar near the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology this spring resulted in a lot of conversation in Drumheller about these misunderstood creatures. Often lumped in with their misbehaving cousins, bears, cougars have a bad reputation. In this presentation, Zimmer hopes to give people a better understanding of cougar behaviour and hopefully be less fearful of them. The cougar is Canada’s largest cat species.

Merely seeing a cougar does not mean you are in imminent danger. Cougars are generally shy and wary of humans, but are efficient hunters. They most often hunt at dusk, night, and dawn. Zimmer presents information on basic identification of a cougar’s habits and habitats, and then discusses how to prevent conflict and respond to an encounter.

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