ROYAL TYRRELL MUSEUM PALAEONTOLOGIST VISITS TUMBLER RIDGE
For Immediate Release
Tumbler Ridge Museum Foundation
Box 1348 Tumbler Ridge, BC V0C 2W0
Contact: Dr Charles Helm, Vice President – 250 242
September 13, 2006
There will be a lot more than dinosaurs on display in the Tumbler Ridge Museum Foundation’s Dinosaur Discovery Gallery, scheduled to be opened in Tumbler Ridge in late 2006. Prior to the Age of Dinosaurs, in the Triassic Period, some groups of reptiles re-entered the oceans and developed a marine existence, along with bony fish and sharks. Fossil evidence of this comes from sites that include Greenland, Japan, China, Madagascar, and the Tumbler Ridge area.
Dr. Don Brinkman, Senior Curator at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology, is an expert in these marine reptiles, and has published many scientific articles describing them. When he heard that the T.R.M.F. / Peace Region Palaeontology Research Centre has been amassing its own collection of such fish and reptiles over the past few years, he made a special trip to Tumbler Ridge to view these specimens for himself, accompanied by Dr. Jason Anderson, Assistant Professor of Veterinary Medicine of University of Calgary.
In an action packed couple of days, they not only analyzed and photographed the scores of specimens, but were able to visit the field sites, thanks to another generous donation of helicopter time from Veritas. Much to their surprise, what was planned as an assessment of the geology of the fossil-bearing rocks turned out to be a collecting trip, as a number of new and important reptile specimens were found. And Dr. Brinkman distinguished himself and endeared himself further to palaeontologists Rich McCrea and Lisa Buckley by discovering a new (to British Columbia) dinosaur tooth on a visit to one of the dinosaur sites.
Some of the finest specimens in the P.R.P.R.C. collections will not immediately be on display, and are on their way to southern Alberta, on loan to these scientists and their students for further study. These include an ichthyosaur skull, an almost complete thalattosaur discovered by Carina Helm in 2004, and arguably the major find of the weekend, what is possibly a baby ichthyosaur. One half of this well-preserved specimen in the morning, and against all odds the counterpart was found in the afternoon about thirty meters away. Rich McCrea was able to use a rock saw on this specimen as well as a beautiful complete fish that he had found, enabling them to be transported back to Tumbler Ridge.
Dr. Brinkman was full of enthusiasm and praise for the activity in Tumbler Ridge: “There is amazing stuff happening here, and great potential for the future museum. For an area with this kind of richness and diversity, Tumbler Ridge is fortunate to have people who live here permanently and know what to look for. That is why such an abundance of material is now being found. We have seen some fine marine reptile and fish fossils in the P.R.P.R.C. collections. We appreciate the opportunity to borrow some of this and research it further.”
Dr. Anderson adds, “What we have seen here in the last few days is extremely interesting, and these specimens help unravel the story of how some reptiles went back into the ocean in the early Mesozoic.”
These scientists have been a tremendous help, having identified that coelacanths and the magnificent large fish called Bobasatrania appear to be the commonest fishes in the collections, and have identified other puzzling specimens such as shark jaws and teeth. This kind of collaboration between scientific institutions has enormous benefits, both for scientific research and for the exhibits that will result.
Drs. Brinkman and Anderson had one final word as they returned to Alberta with their borrowed specimens: “Keep up the good work; we’ll be back with our students sometime soon.”