Thursday, December 15, 2011

Old Man Winter

A diversion today before I finish my Argentina posts, since we did something really cool (cool! get it? ha!) yesterday.

We headed to Dinosaur Provincial Park to finish collecting a tyrannosaur that had been discovered in 2010 and largely excavated this summer. The specimen has a complete pelvis, but it was just too large a jacket to take out with people power alone. We enlisted the help of a helicopter to bring the jacket up to prairie level, and although we were a bit concerned about fog when we arrived it cleared up in plenty of time and the lift went off without a hitch.

The helicopter was able to set the jacket right into the flatbed truck and the pelvis is now at the university waiting to get prepped.

December in Alberta can be pretty chilly but it was a beautiful snowy day with hoarfrost coating all of the trees and grasses. The snow wasn't very deep but it did make it a bit challenging to descend into the badlands, as there were some steep and slippery spots and we had to watch out for semi-covered sinkholes. In the end it was a lovely crisp day to be outside, and very fine indeed to come home to a hot chocolate (with maybe a dash of Baileys for good measure).

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Museo de La Plata

Those regal cats at the entrance to the Museo de La Plata aren't just any ol' big cats - look closely and you'll see that a pair of Smilodon greet you at this museum.

The Museo de La Plata is in a beautiful park and is a great old-school kind natural history museum, which I mean in the best of ways. Others have said it better before me, but natural history museums are at their best when they are full of natural history objects, and this museum delivers on that front. I was delighted to see a hall of marching skeletons and flying whales, which is one of my favourite ways that comparative osteology is showcased.

I liked the glass cases used to display the taxidermy mounts, since you could look at the animals from all sides.

In the fossil galleries, I was pleased to see this cast of a meiolaniid turtle! I love how much these guys look like ankylosaurs.

There was a mounted skeleton of the small ornithopod Gasparinisaura with this excellent life-size model next to it.

And there was a cast of the Carnegie Diplodocus in its own very nice gallery, along with some femora of the giant titanosaur Antarctosaurus.

Next up: the Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Museo Carlos Ameghino

From the Museo Carmen Funes I headed to the town of Cipoletti to visit the Museo Carlos Ameghino. This is the home of an unnamed ankylosaur collected from Argentina, and it was great to be able to check this material out for myself. Gondwanan ankylosaurs are relatively rare; in addition to this specimen, there's Minmi from Australia, fragmentary remains from New Zealand, and Antarctopelta from Antarctica.

The Museo Carlos Ameghino is a neat museum in an cool old house, and houses several holotypes of interesting taxa. The picture above is of Kritosaurus australis, which juusst fits in the room.

The abelisaurid theropods are a really interesting and weird group of theropods, with very reduced arms and strange tails. So it was great to see the skull of Abelisaurus, the namesake of the group, on display.

Just across from Abelisaurus is a cast of the skull of Carnotaurus, another abelisaurid theropod. Having the two skulls close together really highlights how weird Carnotaurus is, even compared to other members of its own group. The skull is so anteroposteriorly short!

That's all for Cipoletti. Next time we head to La Plata!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Museo Carmen Funes

After my Argentinian fieldwork finished up, the crew headed to Plaza Huincal, and the Museo Carmen Funes, home of the giant sauropod Argentinosaurus and the also giant theropod Mapusaurus. I thought I would share some photos of some perhaps less well known Argentinian dinosaurs displayed in their galleries.

The alvarezsaur Patagonykus runs away from the dromaeosaur Unenlagia.

Abelisaurid theropods had really, really reduced arms, with the best example being Carnotaurus (although you wouldn't know it from shows like Terra Nova). But another good example is Aucasaurus, which also had pretty tiny arms.

And I couldn't resist snapping this photo of the tail of Aucasaurus, showing those weird hooked transverse processes on the caudal vertebrae that Scott talked about in his last guest post.

And finally a little love for the little guys. Here's Anabisetia, a basal ornithopod known from four really nice specimens that I had the good fortune to study while I was there.

Next up, the Museo Carlos Ameghino!