Tyrannosaurs, dromaeosaurs and hadrosaurs in British Columbia?. in the first of the Tumbler Ridge Museum Foundation?s (T.R.M.F) summer lecture series, palaeontologists Rich McCrea and Lisa Buckley unveiled some of the highlights of their 2004 field season to date.
The wet weather of early July caused a two week delay in the Museum Foundation?s main dinosaur dig (discovered in 2002 and commenced in 2003). However, following up on the recently reported local dinosaur bone finds of John and Maureen Schulting, the palaeontolologists made good use of this time prospecting in the rocks of the Upper Cretaceous Wapiti Formation near Tumbler Ridge. Within days they had surface-collected dozens of new dinosaur bones, including some diagnostic material.
The most interesting specimens found were the shed teeth of theropods (meat-eating dinosaurs). One of these is a portion of a large tooth from the tyrannosaurid family, possibly that of an Albertasaurus. A small, beautifully preserved tooth can be confidently identified as belonging to Saurornitholestes, a small velociraptorine predator that is a relative to the ?raptors? of Jurassic Park fame. A partial jaw discovered by visiting palaeontologist Lisa Budney (Dalhousie University) contains row upon row of teeth, of a type that is characteristic of a hadrosaur (duck-billed) dinosaur, which were plant-eaters. The above mentioned finds are all firsts for British Columbia. Additional finds included dinosaur tendons and crocodilian and turtle fragments.
These new discoveries pose an interesting challenge for the T.R.M.F.?s Peace Region Palaeontology Research Centre (P.R.P.R.C). The newly discovered bones are fragile and are vulnerable to the elements. Therefore, work on these Wapiti Formation (approximately 75 million years old) dinosaurs is planned to begin as soon as possible in the fall of 2004, after the completion of this year?s excavation of the older Kaskapau Formation (approximately 93 million years old) dinosaurs, which has resumed with the recent good weather. The bones at the older Kaskapau Formation dig site are the oldest in western Canada, from an age that has very little known dinosaur material world-wide, and at the time of their discovery in 2002 were BC?s only known accumulation of dinosaur bone. Over a hundred bones have now been collected from this excavation to date.
The younger B.C. dinosaurs are found in rocks from the same formation (Wapiti Formation) as the well-known dinosaur material currently being excavated from several localities in the Grande Prairie region of Alberta. These recent finds are of tremendous importance to British Columbia and may also contribute significantly to the understanding of the dinosaurs from this formation which is shared between British Columbia and Alberta.
The material recovered from these excavations will be taken to the P.R.P.R.C., where it will be stored, prepared and researched, and eventually displayed. Thanks to matching federal dollars, this centre is rapidly acquiring the necessary tools and equipment to accomplish this.
In uncovering this ancient history, history is truly in the making in Tumbler Ridge. With these discoveries, it is evident that British Columbia is not as poor in dinosaur remains as was previously thought. Dinosaurs are the world?s number one tourist drawcard, and the opportunities for tourism and education for Tumbler Ridge and the Peace Region are being realized. A ?northern dino tour? is being planned, showcasing the palaeontological treasures of northern BC and Alberta communities for tourists.
Dr Charles Helm, Vice President ? 250 242 4251 (w) 250 242 3984 (h)
Rich McCrea, Palaeontologist – 250 242 3466