What’s new at the fossil prep station

In November of last year, a mobile fossil preparation station was put in place in the Talisman Energy Fossil Gallery, manned every Saturday afternoon by palaeobiology research assistant Scott Rufolo.

A man looks at a plaster jacket containing dinosaur bones.

Palaeobiologist research assistant Scott Rufolo readies the new fossil jacket for preparation. Jordan Mallon © Canadian Museum of Nature

Among the first fossils to be prepped was a large ankylosaur (armoured dinosaur) tail club. Many hours were spent painstakingly removing the encasing rock from the fossil using pneumatic drills. Now the time has come to return the specimen back to our dedicated fossil prep lab in Gatineau for the finishing touches. In the meantime, we’ve been left to wonder: what’s next?

A man uses tools at a work station to extract a dinosaur fossil from its rock matrix.

Carefully extracting an ankylosaur tail club from its rock matrix is a project that has taken several months. C.W. Clark © C.W. Clark

There are nearly 200 unprepared fossils in the museum collections, still protected in their original plaster and burlap jackets. Not all of these make for ideal prep station projects, though. For one, many of the fossils are far too big to fit in the limited space available in the gallery, not to mention the excessive time it would take to prepare them before the public. For another, we know from the original field notes that some of the fossils are encased in very hard or friable rock, in which case it is best to prepare them using the full complement of resources available at our Gatineau location. Finally, some of the fossils are… well… just plain old boring and don’t merit a public demonstration. It’s hard to get people worked up about another hadrosaur fibula.

Two boys carefully dusting a fossil with paintbrushes.

The kids’ fossil prep station is popular for young dinosaur enthusiasts. C.W. Clark © C.W. Clark

With these thoughts in mind, we’ve selected a new fossil to be opened in public on May 31. It’s small (fits under your arm), is thought to be encased in a workable sandstone, and promises to be interesting. I can’t say what it is just yet because, if truth be told, I don’t know! The label suggests that it’s part of another ankylosaur skeleton, but we have good reason to believe that the fossil was once mislabelled (long story). In fact, we suspect that it’s the jaw of a carnivorous dinosaur, but there’s no way to be sure until the jacket is finally opened.

Why not pop by the mobile prep station on May 31 for the big reveal? You might catch a glimpse of a toothy maw.

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