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More Activity on Local Dino Exploration

Jun 28, 2016     Email"> PrintText Size

Paleontologists from China will be joining Philip Currie this July to scour the banks of local rivers and creeks, in search of new chapters in the Peace Country's dinosaur story.

Although they'll be retracing familiar steps in the Pipestone Creek bone bed, they hope to focus on other spots that haven't been explored much, said Grande Prairie paleontologist Matthew Vavrek.

"It's been over 30 years now that people have been working at Pipestone Creek," he said. "While it's a really rich and important site, it's kind of like reading one page of a book over and over again. It might be a really good page, but you have no idea what's going on in the rest of the story."

For the past few years Vavrek and fellow paleontologist Nicolás Campione have undertaken The Northern Alberta Dinosaur Project, a search for new fossil sites all over the Peace region.

"So far we've collected literally tonnes of fossils and (discovered) what looks like another horned dinosaur bone bed along the Wapiti," he said.

"It looks like that's what it is, but we need to get in there and move a whole bunch of dirt to confirm it."

They'll also be returning to another spot where they've found various teeth, pieces turtle shells and bits of small dinosaurs.

The pair will exploring further the areas further from July 4 to 18. From the University of Alberta, Phil Currie and paleobotanist Eva Koppelhus will be joining them for a week. Corwin Sullivan, who is taking up a position next year at the U of A, is coming from the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology. With him will be colleagues Xu Xing and Jingmai O'Connor.

The rivers and creeks around Grande Prairie contain the remains of many creatures other than the pachyrinosaurus found in the Pipestone bone bed, Vavrek said.

"Based on what we've found so far, we know there is a huge diversity of all kinds of animals, from turtles, frogs, salamanders, crocodiles, mammals - all kinds of things that can help us figure out what was going on here at the time."

It's often trickier to get at the fossils in the Peace Country than in other parts of Alberta, Vavrek said.

"When I'm out in the field and I've got to trudge through a kilometre of bush just to be able to get down to a spot where I can start looking for fossils," he said. On the other hand, in a lot of places along the Red Deer River, a short walk across a farmer's field leads to fossil beds. (Daily Herald Tribune)

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