My trip to North America started out in Los Angeles, where I spent 4 days working at the LA County Museum of Natural History (LACM) with one of my supervisors, Mike Habib. I had a great week looking through material, mainly of Pteranodon, but also some casts of Pterodaustro, and a Nyctosaurus. The museum has a decent amount of material, including part of a very large skull which is on display, and also a few partial or nearly complete wings, which I really enjoyed. I also was fortunate to have arrived just after they had prepared a new specimen (I say new, but they actually received it in the '60s, but it was only recently opened up and prepared), which was very exciting. It was a really cool specimen, but I am not sure if I'm allowed to talk about it too much yet, so maybe later. We spent a lot of time looking at the wings for evidence of pneumaticity, which is one of my interests as you will know if you've read my previous posts. Unfortunately, as many of you may know, Pteranodon and Nyctosaurus are both almost completely flattened, which means that finding pneumatic foramina can be extremely difficult.
|Pteranodon display at the LACM. Note the absolutely massive partial skull on the bottom right.|
|Not a great picture, but here's a complete skeleton of a Teratornis at the Page Museum. I was amazed by the tank-like stature of it compared to more typical gracile birds.|
|The area of the bone bed we exposed this summer was found underneath the tarp, which we laid down each night to keep it dry. You can see the massive hill behind that we had to climb with our buckets of matrix (dirt/rock) after uncovering the fossils.|
|Palaeontologists and volunteers hard at work uncovering Pachyrhinosaurus fossils.|
This site was initially excavated by the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology in the 80s when Phil Currie was still working there after being told about the site in the 70s. After moving to the University of Alberta, he realised that the remains represented a new species of Pachyrhinosaurus, and named it Pachyrhinosaurus lakustai, after the science teacher (Al Lakusta) that found the site. Dr. Currie and the U of A team have continued to work at this site each summer. Now that a permanent palaeontology museum with palaeontologists like Matthew Vavrek has started up in the area, the U of A team will likely scaled down their work there and let the new museum take over. While it has been worked on for many years, there is still lots of new information coming out of the bone bed, and lots to be learned!
|Some Pachyrhinosaurus fossils as they were being uncovered. The large top one near the feet is a fairly complete rib that continued to go underneath several other bones which can barely be made out.|
|The grid square - an important palaeontological tool. This allows for all bones found to be mapped so the orientation can be analysed later. This allows us to better understand patterns in orientation related to things like palaeo-river flow.|
|The Wapiti River bone bed - what a wonderful view!|
|Some of us and Dan Aykroyd! I'm on the right|