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text 2018-11-20 15:56
Reading progress update: I've read 269 out of 416 pages.
The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World - Stephen Brusatte


On page 242, the author briefly mentions a Centrosaurus bone-bed in Alberta.  I've been there multiple times and it is a great place to visit.


It is in Dinosaur Provincial Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, located close to the town of Brooks, Alberta.  It's a popular camping site, although because of the paleontological value of the landscape, campers are somewhat restricted in where they can go.


The site also holds the cabin of John Ware, the best known Black cowboy & rancher in Alberta's history. 



It's also a fabulous birding location.  The look-out at the park entrance is one of the best places that I know locally to see Lark Sparrow.



There is a field station of the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology and there used to be guided tours of some of the dig sites.  The last one I went on was over 20 years ago, so I'm not sure if they still run those, but I wouldn't be surprised if they do.  The tours were ultra-popular.


There is an exposed portion of the bone-bed along a public hiking/driving path--the bones are coated in preservative and have a shelter over them to protect them from the worst of the Albertan weather.


All in all, it is a wonderful location to visit.  I haven't been out there for a year or two and this is making me want to go back.  I must plan a trip for next spring.





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text 2018-11-19 16:03
Reading progress update: I've read 229 out of 416 pages.
The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World - Stephen Brusatte


So, I used to volunteer as a docent (education volunteer) at the Calgary Zoo.  The zoo has a Prehistoric Park, containing a number of life-size dinosaur models and a sculptured back-drop with plants as appropriate to the time period as possible.  While I was a volunteer, the dinosaur section was one of my favourites and I spent a lot of time keeping up with the latest research.  Since I stopped being a volunteer there, I have let my research slip.


As a result, I was really interested in the research on T. rex ancestors.  It's fascinating to me that they were there, just small and not very noticeable, right from the break-up of Pangaea.  I can see where I'm going to be reading a few academic papers to get myself caught up to speed.


OK, now my complaint:  how can you write a whole section on Tyrannosaurs and only mention Phil Currie once?  The man is a theropod expert, especially Tyrannosauridae.  Don't take my (admittedly biased) word for it.  Talk to Wikipedia:




Having bitched about that, now I can at least say that Brusatte & I agree that Phil is one of the nicest human beings on the planet (p. 215).


I remember when the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology was digging at Dry Island Buffalo Jump (one of the digs mentioned on page 215).  Dry Island is just north of my home town and my family often used to picnic there, after church on Sundays.  I even remember seeing the dig site, covered with tarps.


Phil Currie was trying to retrace Barnum Brown's footsteps and find his Albertosaur quarry.  Phil took photos from BB's expedition and starting rafting down the Red Deer River, comparing the photos to the environment all the way along.  They would frequently stop and scramble up to look-out spots, trying to match skylines & objects.  In this painstaking way, he rediscovered the Albertosaur dig site and was able to excavate lots of Albertosaur remains.


I get that Brusatte is the next generation of researchers, but I resent that he gives such short shrift to Bob Bakker, Jack Horner, and Phil Currie.  It's their research and hard work that has given him the platform that he's using to base his own research on.


Okay, rant over.

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text 2018-11-17 21:32
Reading progress update: I've read 162 out of 416 pages.
The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World - Stephen Brusatte


There's some serious Paul Serreno worship going on here!  Not that there's anything wrong with that, exactly.....


I know I have biases toward the paleontologists in my province too, especially Phil Currie, who is possibly the nicest scientist that I have ever met.  When I was in Cuba, our bird tour leader was a university professor who was a geologist.  When he found out that I was a dyed-in-the-wool dinosaur fan, he took us to a place where we could see & touch the K/T boundary.  I was thrilled, although I'm not sure that the other members of the tour really understood its significance.  This Cuban prof was more of the "birds aren't dinosaurs" persuasion and we had some intense discussions of the issue.  Until I finally just said, "Look, Phil Currie works in my area and he is my hero.  So as far as I am concerned, birds are dinosaurs."  We agreed to disagree.  But I will always remember laying my hand on that iridium layer, that divides the Cretaceous from the Tertiary.


Dinosaurs are wondrous creatures!

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text 2018-11-15 15:22
Reading progress update: I've read 85 out of 416 pages.
The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World - Stephen Brusatte


Reading about the new Triassic research was very interesting.  Back in 2013, I read My Beloved Brontosaurus by Brian Switek and realized that there was a lot of work going on in that time period. 


Interestingly, when I attended a lecture at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology back in October, the lecturer (whose name seems to have completely escaped me) was talking about crocodile hearts--namely that they were structurally like the heart of endothermic animals, so it looked like modern crocodiles were descended from warm-blooded ancestors.  The pseudosuchians that Brusatte talks about seem to fill the bill--active predators who would have needed to be endothermic in order to pursue prey.  Crocs have since become ectothermic ambush predators, but retain that endothermic heart structure.


I also appreciated his description of Bob Bakker on page 77:

"...renowned for his high energy lectures, delivered in the style of an evangelist testifying to his congregation."


This is exactly how Bob is!  When he was promoting his 1995 novel Raptor Red, he stopped here in Calgary and gave an evening talk at the Calgary Zoo.  I was a new docent at the zoo at the time and as a dinosaur enthusiast, I was there with bells on. 


It was shortly after the Jurassic Park movie had come out (1993) and Bakker was talking about the raptors in that movie.  The actual fossil velociraptors were only about turkey size, but Spielberg had deemed those "not scary enough" so he increased their size by several orders of magnitude.  In the meanwhile, fossils of a large raptor called Utahraptor had been described and were about the right size.  Bakker was calling Spielberg a prophet and urging us to "Praise Speilberg!"  I got a great kick out of that evening.


I must admit that I was skim reading the notes and checking the index to this book last night and I'm a bit disappointed at how little Canadian scientists and older scientists of Bakker's vintage that this author cites.  I live in a dinosaur hot-spot, with Dinosaur Provincial Park and the Royal Tyrrell Museum in my back yard and I know that a ton of significant fossils and research originate here.  This may end up being my biggest disappointment with this book.


A reconstruction of Utahraptor (from Wikipedia).

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text 2018-10-31 20:30
Flat Book Society
The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World - Stephen Brusatte


I am happy to report that this book is waiting for me at the public library, so I'm set to join in the Flat Book Society discussion of it.


What with this & the Festive Tasks, I think the rest of my year is all wrapped up!

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