From foothills to badlands—fossil discoveries in Alberta

My team and I have been in the field in Alberta for two weeks now, so I thought I would pass along a summary of our findings so far.

Jordan Mallon and Scott Rufolo sitting on ground amidst the hills of the badlands.

Jordan Mallon and Scott Rufolo pause during fieldwork prospecting for fossils in the badlands of southeastern Alberta. Image: Jordan Mallon © Canadian Museum of Nature.

As mentioned previously, I spent the first few days in the foothills of Alberta, near Bottrel and Sundre. The intent was simple: to prospect the local Brazeau Formation for signs of otherwise rare Late Cretaceous dinosaurs. I’m happy to say that we weren’t skunked— my guide, Sue Marsland, turned up a fragmentary dinosaur bone from a spot near the Little Red Deer River. It’s difficult to say just what it is from the little that remains, but it appears to be a small limb bone from an ornithischian dinosaur.

Close-up view of fossil leaves in rock.

Fossil leaves and bone found while prospecting in the Albertan foothills. Image: Jordan Mallon © Canadian Museum of Nature.

Otherwise, we found lots of leaf and marine invertebrate fossils, which are quite common in the Brazeau Formation. It’s obvious that we’re going to have to put in a lot more time exploring this area to get a better idea of what the dinosaurs of the Albertan foothills were like.

In contrast to the foothills, my time in the southeast end of Alberta has been productive so far. My team (Margaret Currie and Scott Rufolo) and I have made a number of interesting finds. Our first prospect was a horned dinosaur (ceratopsid) leg, which we didn’t collect because it was too poorly preserved.

Scott Rufolo sits beside a partially excavated leg of a horned dinosaur.

Scott Rufolo poses with a horned dinosaur hindlimb that we uncovered, but didn’t collect. Image: Jordan Mallon © Canadian Museum of Nature.

We’ve also turned up two microsites, which contain abundant fragmentary remains of fossil vertebrates such as fish, turtles, crocodiles, and dinosaurs. These sites are ideal for getting a handle on the local biodiversity of the time. We found a ceratopsid bonebed, which has so far produced some limb bones and vertebrae, and a small brow horn.

A badly weathered nose horn of a ceratopsid (beside a pick for scale).

A badly weathered nose horn of a ceratopsid (beside a pick for scale). Image: Jordan Mallon © Canadian Museum of Nature.

We also collected a forward-curving ceratopsid nose horn, probably of a Centrosaurus, which are common to this area. The complete carapace of a soft-shelled turtle was also uncovered; we will return to collect it closer to the end of our trip (read about the collecting of a turtle shell found last year). We will also be bringing home some bones for the kids’ fossil prep station in the Talisman Energy Fossil Gallery.

All in all, I’m quite happy with our efforts so far. We’ve got a number of finds on the go, despite the difficult and often steep nature of the badlands terrain out here. Still, I hope the best find awaits us yet. I’ll be sure to post a debriefing of our field season following our return next week from Alberta. Until then, keep up on our progress on Twitter by following me (@Jordan_Mallon) or via the hashtag #CMNPalaeo.

Read previous blogs about this fieldwork:

Alberta Bound! Returning to hunt for dinosaur fossils

This entry was posted in Fieldwork, Fossils, Research and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to From foothills to badlands—fossil discoveries in Alberta

  1. Pingback: Thinking Back, Looking Ahead: The 2014 Palaeobiology Field Season in Alberta | Canadian Museum of Nature – Blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s