Famous Canadian Palaeontologist Plans to Track Down Troodon
Professor Phil Currie (University of Alberta) is making plans for next summer, they include an expedition to hunt for a complete skeleton of the fast-running member of the dinosaur clade Deinonychosauria. Phil Currie is hoping to hunt down Troodon.
Professor Phil Currie – Next Year Hunting for Troodon
Picture Credit: Bruce Edwards (from a video interview)
Troodontids are a group of small Theropod dinosaurs that seem to fall somewhere in the phylogeny of the Dinosauria between the ornithomimids and the fearsome dromaeosaurids. Troodon, may have been typical of this group, being fast-running, between two to three metres long (mostly tail), having a small skull with a long snout, large eyes and a big brain. Relative to its body size, the species Troodon inequalis has the largest brain of any mature dinosaur yet described. However, this genus is only known from a few specimens, and no complete skeleton of this dinosaur has ever been discovered.
An Illustration of a Troodontid (Troodon formosus)
Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur
A Typical Member of the Troodon Family of Dinosaurs (Scale Drawing)
Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur
Phil Currie, hopes to change all that and by doing so, help to assign with greater confidence, the various dinosaur genera associated with the Troodontidae family. The family tree certainly needs some revision, after all the Troodon genus was originally set up on the basis of the description of a single fossil tooth (albeit a very distinctive tooth). The famous Canadian palaeontologist, will lead a field team to the County of Grande Prairie (north-western Alberta, Canada) setting up a major dig in the Pipestone Creek area. The rocks in this area were laid down in the Late Cretaceous and a number of bedding planes contain extensive bonebeds. There have already been several important Theropod dinosaur discoveries made in this area, for example, earlier this year Everything Dinosaur published an article on the newly described, dog-sized, meat-eating dinosaur Boreonykus, which has been assigned to the Velociraptorinae sub-family of the Dromaeosaur family.
To read more about this new dinosaur discovery: Boreonykus certekorum A polar dinosaur related to Velociraptor
The teeth, which are relatively small, are easily identified thanks to their very large, hook-like serrations. Isolated broken teeth are quite frequently found in the Grande Prairie area, but articulated bones and a fully intact skeleton are what the research team will be hoping to find.
Phil Currie explained:
“We find its teeth [Troodon] all the time up in the Grande Prairie region, yet in the rest of Alberta, it’s a pretty rare dinosaur.”
The Hunt for a Complete Troodon Fossil Specimen
Bones and teeth that have been assigned to the Troodontidae family have been found across North America and also in Asia, but despite the wealth of fossil material (mainly teeth), Professor Currie estimates that 90% of the bones in a Troodon skeleton remain unknown to science.
The Grande Prairie region could be just the spot to find the rest of the skeleton. Many of the bedding planes where fossils are found represent low energy environments, which can aid the preservation of tiny bones such as those from a small, fast-running troodontid. If lizards and mammals are preserved in these sediments then a three metre long, light and fragile Troodon might have been preserved too.
The Professor commented:
“It’s a big deal, because the more fragile skeletons tend to break apart, especially if there is a river nearby with a powerful current. If you are an animal that’s falling apart because you’re rotten your big bones are not going to be washed very far by a river, but your small bones will be washed a long way. Because small animals are being preserved there, we hope to find small dinosaurs as well.”
In the summer of 2017, a field team will descend on the Pipestone Creek bonebeds with the aim of identifying small fauna. A team of Chinese palaeontologists, who have studied Asian troodontids are expected to join the researchers.
North-western Alberta in the Late Cretaceous – A Cretaceous Cross Roads
The northern part of Alberta has proved to be a happy hunting ground for vertebrate palaeontologists with a number of significant dinosaur discoveries having been made in the area. The Upper Cretaceous rocks record important aspects of the region’s Late Cretaceous biota. It seems that during this time in Earth’s history, North America was connected to Asia and a faunal interchange probably took place. Several families of Asian dinosaurs have never been found in Canada, but Professor Currie is confident that one day, palaeontologists will uncover further evidence of this faunal interchange between the linked continents of Asia and North America.
Phil Currie, optimistically concluded:
“One of these days, I think we are going to find some, the potential is definitely there.”
Team members at Everything Dinosaur look forward to reporting on the research team’s progress.