Rivers re­veal fos­sil finds fol­low­ing flood

The Drumheller Mail - - FRONT PAGE - Pa­trick Ko­lafa The Drumheller Mail

While the Flood of 2013, wreaked havoc on the prov­ince, and even to­day, many com­mu­ni­ties are just re­ceiv­ing mit­i­ga­tion fund­ing, for the sci­en­tific com­mu­nity, it has been re­veal­ing.

Royal Tyrrell Mu­seum tech­ni­cians Joe Sanchez and Ben Borkovic have been prospect­ing in the wake of the flood­ing look­ing for spec­i­mens that have been re­vealed by the high wa­ter.

“So far it has turned up some ex­cep­tional fos­sil ma­te­rial that was out in those rivers,” Borkovic tells The Mail.

One of those ex­cep­tional finds is the com­plete fos­sil of a small di­nosaur known as a Lep­to­cer­atops, that was re­vealed in the banks of the Old Man River near Fort Macleod.

“That was prob­a­bly the spec­i­men that started the whole thing,” he ex­plains. “It re­ally made us and the pow­ers that be re­al­ize what was out there and the im­pact the flood had on palaeon­tol­ogy.”

This fos­sil was dis­placed from the wall of the river­bank and spot­ted by a cou­ple fish­ing. They con­tacted the Tyrrell Mu­seum, and staff helped him to col­lect it.

“Now that it is be­ing pre­pared it is turn­ing out to be quite ex­cep­tional. It’s great to have a skeleton, and know that it wasn’t lost in the river, but on top of that it is turn­ing out to be a pretty spec­tac­u­lar spec­i­men, which will hope­fully be out on dis­play here in time.”

Since this find in 2013, they have con­tin­ued to prospect, and of­ten na­ture is their best helper.

“Where the largest ef­fect, in terms of our pro­ject and in terms of the fos­sil ma­te­rial turn­ing up, would be in the bends of rivers where the flood was get­ting higher and push­ing harder than any sort of stan­dard spring flow,” he ex­plains. “It re­ally cut the banks

back, brought down rock to ex­pose fresh bedrock or clear away a slumped ma­te­rial … it just cut ev­ery­thing clean again.”

The pro­ject took more than just cruis­ing the banks of the rivers look­ing for fos­sils.

“We nar­rowed down our fo­cus by look­ing at ar­eas where we knew the rocks were there, right type and age. We were pour­ing over maps and satel­lite im­ages for ar­eas where that should be ex­posed and try to get to those ar­eas,” he ex­plains. “Once we are on that out­crop, you could tell quickly if it was re­buried or slumped over. If it was cleanly ex­posed, we had to make our way along and in­spect ev­ery sec­tion.

While the flood pro­ject it­self will be wrap­ping up over the next year or two. It did how­ever open up new ar­eas to keep an eye on.

“Some of th­ese finds might have brought fur­ther field ar­eas to light. Ob­vi­ously the Drumheller val­ley and Di­nosaur Park are very well known for their fos­sil ma­te­rial, but now I think there is now some in­cen­tive so that the mu­seum will pe­ri­od­i­cally go and in­spect th­ese other ar­eas as well."

Tyrrell Mu­seum tech­ni­cian Ben Borkovic prospect­ing in the Sheep river. A num­bers of ex­cep­tional fos­sil funds were re­veal in the banks of Al­berta rivers fol­low­ing the 2013 flood.

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