Dr. Don Brinkman, Director of Preservation & Research, Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology
Three field parties from the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology worked in Dinosaur Park during the 2009 summer. Despite the rainy weather that sometimes limited our access to quarries, it was a very satisfying year.
Dr. David Eberth, Curator of Geology continued his study of the Park's bone beds. In May and June his team opened and excavated the Fryberger bone bed on the north side of the Red Deer River. This
site was found near the end of 2008, and is named for the Fryberger family, long time landowners that have been supportive of research in the area for many years. This locality is particularly exciting because it is only the second known bone bed yielding the remains of Styracosaurus canadensis, a relatively rare horned dinosaur with a distinctive array of hooks and smaller spikes on its frill.
The crew collected more than 100 elements during the month-long dig, which is especially noteworthy because it is currently the youngest horned dinosaur bone bed known from the park, with an estimated age of 75.3 million years.
As is the case for many bone beds, evidence from this new site supports our hypothesis that widespread coastal plain flooding was responsible for the deaths of these animals.
Their presence in a bone bed configuration seems to confirm they were together in a herd at the time of death. We expect new insights into the biology of this unusual dinosaur will come from this study.
Dr. Don Henderson, Curator of Dinosaur Paleontology undertook two dinosaur excavations. One was a skull of Styracosaurus. This promises to be a very good specimen, perhaps one of the best that has ever been collected.
The second focus of attention was a skeleton of Gorgosaurus, a smaller relative of Tyrannosaurus rex. The skull is present, and probably about half the body. This specimen is significant for being one of the smallest individuals yet collected. Small individuals are particularly rare, and are important because they help provide an understanding of the changes that occurred in the skeleton as the animal grew.
Dr. Don Brinkman continued his investigation of fossil turtles and of vertebrate microfossil sites. In one exceptional location three shells of Aspideretes foveatus, a soft shelled turtle, were found in a single day.
He also collected matrix (the rock material in which fossils are embedded) from vertebrate microfossil localities for screen washing. He is particularly interested in identifying what kinds of fish lived in the ancient rivers that flowed through this area into the nearby Bearpaw Sea. While many types long since extinct, are very unusual, others are very familiar. Among these are close relatives of the northern pike and goldeye, fish that swim in the Red Deer River today.
As another spring approaches, our preparations will soon begin for 2010 RTM research activities in the park.