fossil of the weekend! #27

a cast skeleton mount of the albertan dromaeosaurid (aka raptor) saurornitholestes, at the royal tyrrell museum.

(Production Note: We're giving another raptor fossil of the weekend to make up for our delay in the ubber exciting action packed conclusion to Raptor Attack. We apologize, due to a prior project commitment our creative team has been distracted from helping Traumador out with his blog. This week they'll be resuming Tyrannosaur Chronicles work, and get Traumador back on track!

Thank you for your patience and for supporting Traumador

Prehistoric Insanity)



today has been, to put it lightly, a nightmare!

which is "funny" cause i've been having real nightmares recently, but not in my days. up until now.

the reason for my unfun dreams was the scary (but very good) the dinosaur dealers book i read by dr. john long. it confirmed that frightening things like fossil poachers, smugglers, and rogue dealers were all real and threatening us dinosaurs, and not just made up monsters to scare us by the campfire.

in fact, it was my worry about the fossil poaching, currently going on around drumheller, that started off the terrible events of today...

it started with me and tony chatting in the tyrrell museum's staff lounge.
me and tony were supposed to head out and continue our fieldwork this afternoon. we'd made a great team so far, and had made a huge find. however, due to my run-in with professor paradigm the other day, i was now reluctant to go out and accidentally run into anymore evidence of the fossil poachers.
not only had dr. paradigm implied bad things would happen to me should i stick my snout where it doesn't belong, but his saurian assistiant lance the lambeosaur had outright threatened me should i simply bump into him again. so in general i was not only wanting to lie low, but kinda wishing my trip home would end... yet i was stuck here a bit longer. so i might as well make the most of it.
talking to tony about these various issues made me feel better. as tony is such a laid back and fancy free dude, he said i shouldn't let it worry me so much... granted he'd never had any of the stuff that seems to always happen to me occur to him.
he suggested that we head out into the field looking for "legitimate" finds, but on the "side" keep our eyes open for poaching activity. my brain was opposed to this (as small as it may be, it has good danger recognition), but my guy was telling me tony was right. i couldn't spend the rest of my time cowering in the museum.
it was decided. we would head out just as soon as our third exploring member yumi showed up. i just wish she'd shown up a little sooner...
as if we'd headed out of the building even a minute or two sooner none of today's events could have happened.
just as we'd decided to head out into the field, i smelt something funny. now i should note as a t-rex i have one of the best senses of smell ever evolved... so when i smell something funny it is usually odd (and not something i smell around me everyday... what you humans rank as funny or gross smelling often doesn't tend to register with me, as i can smell it hanging in the air long after it disperses below what you can pick up).
my instincts told me the smell was trouble, but i couldn't put my claw on why at first. when i finally got a good sniff of the odor it reminded me of that albertosaur i ran into a little while ago. yet it wasn't albertosaur, or a tyrannosaurid of any kind. so how could it be worrying me so much? i'd been succeeding in keeping my distance from that big bully.
little did i know, but my albertosaur encounter had triggered the events about to unfold, check those events here and here...
just as i clued into what it was, there came a terrorifying bark from down one of the museum's many back corridors (it is a sort of mini maze... not one you can get lost in, but there are a lot of long narrow corridors that sounds can echo down...). me and tony recoiled in surprise.
we sat in silence for a minute regathering our wits, and using our now fear heightened senses to try and pinpoint the cause of the eerie call. i however had a sinking feeling i knew...
breaking the quiet, and freaking me out a second time, tony gasped "what's that doing in the building?"
tony pointed to the balcony above the staff lounge. not that i needed to look up to know what he saw. i'd connected the smell and the call now... however standing just a few metres above us was my suspicsions in the flesh.
a dromaeosaur, a deinonychus or adasaurus i would have guessed at that moment based on the size. or as the movies have popularized them, a raptor!
i panicked... this couldn't be good. this couldn't be good at all!!!
there was no way this guy wasn't part of the pack of the primordial feather... my cousin larry's coelurosaur only club. a club i'd royally ticked off when i declined to join it (something very few other bird relatives have ever done and survived).
i immediately realized it was not only here because of me (after all deinonychuses and adasaurs aren't native to alberta, and the museum didn't have any on display), but that call we'd heard earlier was a hunting call. it had been sent to alert the other pack members that prey had been spotted...and i had the terrible feeling i was the prey.
as quickly as it had appeared, the large raptor (a deinonychus it turns out... so i'll call it that from now on) disappeared. i turned to tony and blathered as much of the story of the pack, larry, and myself as i could. i don't think he understood a word of it, but tony caught that this deinonychus was not good news for me.
i wanted to run, but before i could make good on this plan tony seized me by the neck, and assured me "i have an idea," as he proceeded to stuff me into his backpack!
it was about as much fun as it sounded, and it was a very tight squeeze. my knees were on either side of my head and my tail wrapped up over the top of my head and down the back of my shirt (very itchy!). yet i fit. i can't believe i'd never thought of this before!
i am perfectly backpack sized!!!
tony's plan was brilliant. with me hidden inside his pack we'd just walk out past this deinonychus and any other potential pack member's...
interupting the euphoria of this discovery and tony's scheme, from up on the balcony there was a shrill hiss... dromaeosaur laughter (tony didn't realize this, but i did. as i speak a spattering of dromaeosaurench). that cheeky deinonychus had simply ducked out of view, and hidden, had
seen what we had done.

it knew where i was hiding! before tony could make good on the escape part of our plan suddenly the deinonychus lept the whole storey down to our level of the staff lounge.

its 3 meter body landed gracfully on the couch right in front of tony (and where i'd just been sitting!). the cushions helping absorb the landing to the point that the cat like theropod didn't even feel the jump.

tony didn't need me to translate from inside the bag to tell him the snarl the raptor was making was a hostile one. not that i'd risk making a sound, i was staying quiet on the slim chance the deinonychus hadn't caught onto tony's ploy.

man was i going out on a limb on that hope... the deinonychus made a (half hearted) lunge at tony. it was more then enough to scare him despite its lack of effort...
to be fair had it been me i'd have chickened out a lot quicker... though where he had bravery, tony sure was lacking on the speed. i wish i was carrying him on my back. my long and powerful juvenile tyrannosaur legs would have outrun this dromaeosaur easily (as unlike jurassic park their not super humanly fast).

yet despite his mammalian limitations tony got away, and bolted into the nearest corridor. aiming desperately to get us into a more public part of the building (the back end can be next to empty at certain parts of the day).

sadly for us this was part of, desdemona i found out her name was, deinonychus' plan.

as she got tony running into the bowels of the tyrrell, desdemona let out a new battle cry. i recognized it as trouble. mega trouble... it was a cue to any other raptors that the hunt was now on...
as tony burst into a T junction, our situation got more complicated. we nearly ran over yumi, who had final made it to meet up with us (for our now cancelled fossil hunt).

"what?!?" yumi yelped as tony instinctively grabbed her. before she could protest, there were several more raptor barks through the corridors as the pack corrodinated their movements (and possibly pinpointing us through the noise yumi had just made). yumi instinctively now wanted to run, and let tony guide her along.

we headed towards the backdoor of the museum...

however rounding the bend we were startled to nearly run into a true velociraptor (not a deinonychus pretending to be one like in sooooo many movies). our surprisingly small (compared to said movies) adversary put up a very threatening warning. it looked ready to pounce.
unlike the deinonychus, this velociraptor sounded like it meant business, and would very well have caused us some harm...

tony didn't give it a chance too though, and veered down a new corridor. it was the best avaliable route as it headed away from the backdoor and staff lounge. it even had a perfect left in obstruction for pursurers in the form of a janitor cart... though it was set up perfectly to slow us down too...

poor tony and yumi were running on pure aderniline and instinct, and didn't have the ability at moment to think through out situation. i on the other hand, immoblized and stuck in the bag on tony's back, had nothing to do but think through out situation.

i may not be the most elegant of thinkers, but even i knew (possibly helped out by my deep inner predator) something was up with the raptor's antics...
why hadn't desdemona simply pursued us? she probably could have easily caught up too, and incapacitated tony...
oh well, i tried to assure myself. it didn't matter. we were a single small hallway away from the exit into the museum's public galleries, and then we'd be out in the open. if the raptors were still planning on harassing us they'd have to do it in front of hundreds of witnesses!
as we rounded the bend this hope was dashed by a dromaeosaurus standing guard on the gallery exit...
okay things had gone from terrible to uber dangerous!
not only had the raptors perfectly cut us off from all (but one) means of escape from the building, but they were now sounding like they meant business. the deinonychus' efforts in the lounge had simply been to get us out into the "open". the staff lounge was the busiest part of the staff only end of the museum, causing carnage there would get noticed quickly. elsewhere in the bowels and it could be hours before it was discovered...
around this exit was a terrible spot for them to do anything dirty either though... so they'd placed the perfect sentenal to ensure we didn't linger here so close to help...
the dromaesaur made an attack rush at the lot of us.
i'm glad tony wasn't feeling brave enough to stand his ground. the dromaeosaur might be half his size, but it was a 100% percent killer. tony would never have stood a chance.
yet i couldn't help feel alarmed when we escaped this encounter yet again unpursued or mauled. sure the dromaeosaur had chased us away from the public side of the building, but why not follow us? it wasn't like we were going to be able to get around it.
tony and yumi were in total flight mode. they clearly weren't thinking about where we going... which is when i realized what the dromaeosaurs were doing... we were being herded, and there was nothing we could do about it.
even if tony had stopped to think about it, we had no other option. the only corridor and exit so far not covered was the loading bay.
at the same time i knew there had to be a reason the raptors were driving us in that direction...
my theory on their plan gained a lot of evidence when we hit the final corridor to the bay. we picked up our first offical pursuer, a saurornitholestes.
it lazily chased after us (for a dromaeosaur. had it wanted to it could have been on yumi or tony in a few seconds), prompting my two human friends to blindly sprint towards the loading bay exit.
instinctively it must have seemed to them like escape, but they didn't have the luxary of being able to analyze the situation like i currently did...
just like a bunch of naive hadrosaurs we rushed right into the trap. tony and yumi were cut off moments of emerging outside. the velociraptor we'd run into earlier lead this blockade, and it wasn't allow.
for a moment i was confused. how could the dromaeosaur and saurornitholestes we'd just left behind us a minute ago have swung around in front of us?

then the rest of the pack made their presence known!
this was why we'd be driven to the loading bay. it was an open space where the raptors could overwhelm us with superior numbers. even better at this time of day the bay was totally abandoned. so no witnesses. whatever they did to us here won't be found by anyone else till tomorrow!
yet as they closed there was a noticable gap in their formation... a mistake on their part due to over anticipation of the kill?
yumi thought so, and seized the oppurtunity to sprint through past the gather raptors, and try to dash to safety...

only tony had figured out it was a trap (i would have, but i couldn't see what was going on outside the bag, and it all happened so fast), and screamed at yumi "stop!!!"

yumi ran on though. her animal instincts falsely told her safety was just around the corner.
in reality the corner hid imminent danger. another dromaeosaurus whose job i'm sure you figured out.

unlike its companions in the museum, the dromaeosaur pounced...
yumi let out a scream of sheer pain and terror and the raptor gracefully delievered a jump kick with its giant foot talon...
however the dromaeosaur didn't make it a death blow or even a serious wounding slash. rather it simply embedded its claw in yumis back, which not an overly life threatening place for it, was extremely painful. yumi couldn't move without intense pain, and thus was perfectly immoblized.
yet the raptor made it dead clear it could end yumi's life if it choose to by grabbing her head and pulling it back to expose her neck...
perhaps the only reason she lived, was the backpack on tony's shoulder... me.
desdemona reemerged, and spoke to tony in dromaeosaur... not that he understood it, but i did (this is when i learned her name and species)... not that tony needed to understand her. he already knew what they wanted, and more to point what they were implying would happen to yumi if he didn't cooperate.

with extreme guilt (i would know, i could feel his back tense up real bad) tony reached for the backpacks straps and slowly removed it and me from his back.

"i'm so sorry," he whispered to me with great shame... i tried to forgive him, but my mouth was pinned between my tail and my chest.

i understood why tony was giving me up. it's not like he had a choice. the many raptors around him could tear him to pieces in just a few seconds anyways. that alone what the dromaeosaur up ahead could (and certainly would) do to yumi...

i wasn't about to ask either of my friends to give up their lives for mine... especially since they'd done nothing wrong. i was the one who'd taken on the pack 2 years ago, and "known" what the consequences might be... though i'd never imagined this...

tony began to hand me over to desdemona, and her legion of raptors. just in time to be witnessed by some wandering vivus hadrosaurs.

stupid duckbills. no doubt they were some of the many vivus dinosaurs that wander town looking for work and a home. most of them make stops at the tyrrell many times a week looking for work. only this time their timing was worse then usual (i say their timing sucks partially cause they never get work out of these non stop check ins, and also i'm frankly in a very foul mood... what with my life about to end and all!!!).

it made me even angrier that my end was being watched by a bunch of dumb duckbills. it'd be like a human going out in front of their steak. at least i could take minor statisfaction at some of the onlookers sharing my fate... given the growing excitment in the pack as i was being surrendered to them, the dromaeosaurs were very likely to hunt down a duckbill or two for a celebration meal...

not that it mattered...

the pack of the primoridal feather had promised retribution against me, and they were about enact it.

to be continued???


my cousin of the week #9

a paradise shelduck chick i saw in christchurch. so cute and cuddly...


fossil of the weekend! #26

a cast velociraptor skull from the sydney museum.

the raptor theme at the tyrannosaur chronicles comes to a head this week with RAPTOR ATTACK!!! be sure to not miss the exciting dinosaurian action...


how i got my name...

with all the excitement going on around me during this whole trip back to drumheller i've been forgetting to blog about the most important thing to me here in all of the tyrrell.

that would be this skeleton. known to most as the huxley tyrannosaur, or to the scientific community as specimen TMP 81. 12. 1... but to me it has a much simpler name... mommy.

its hard to think that 65 million years ago, right before the great KT extinction, i had a living and breathing mother... who was probably part of some pack or social group of other tyrannosaurs. a natural "family" for my kind... a thing i've never known in the real world (though i have been part of a group of caring humans you could call my family even if we aren't remotely related!).

i of course never knew her in this form, and never will...

before you ask how do we know if this is my mom, i investigated this earlier in my trip by checking with darren tanke. the short story was that her skeleton was found right over top of the fossilized nest my egg came from. in fact she was buried while on the nest... so unless a complete stranger rex wandered onto my nest, it is a safe bet this was my mother.

based on what we've seen in other meat eating dinosaurs, it looks like she was protecting the nest... and based on her large size this would have been unusual for a tyrannosaur (as she could easily have crushed us eggs... in fact it looks like a couple of my siblings may have been squashed in the cretaceous by mom's huddling on us). what could have been threatening us eggs so much that she'd risk it i wonder?

this is the purely scientific evidence that the huxley tyrannosaur was my mommy. most palaeontologists would say there was a strong chance she was my mom (or dad, as dino genders are impossible to confirm from just the bones), but we'll never know for sure...

speaking from just the scientifically provable angle this is correct. i can't prove to you "properly" that she is my mom. yet at the same time there is no question in my mind that she is my mommy, and not my daddy or other random t-rex.

we vivus-dinosaurs (that's the proper term for us dinosaurs somehow not extinct today) have another way of IDing our long dead kind...
contrary to the common belief of the humans in my life, i don't waste my time in trying to talk to my mom or other extinct dinosaur skeletons. sure they don't strike up a complex conversation, but i have met with limited success in getting answers back from them...

the reason being, somehow all us living vivus-dinosaurs can hear echoes of dinosaurs long extinct. there is no rational explanation, but it is true. ask any of us, and we'll all agree.

no this isn't like a ghost or a conscious entity we're communicating with. in fact the communication is mostly one way. rather we can hear, what seems like anyways, the last thoughts and feelings of that dinosaur before it died. often we can even tell you what killed it because of this echo (if indeed these are the last thoughts being "preserved", mind you).
now the more complete a specimen the more complete the echo... for whatever reason (which as you'll see in a moment i think i've now, for the first time ever, figured out!). it also seems the more of the skull present the better the quality of the echo. words and "conversations" are possible with a skulled animal (though the conversation on your part just prompts different aspects of the echo. sort of like having a recording of someone and picking different parts of the recording to listen to).

even with the smallest fragments if you listen hard enough (if you're a dinosaur) you can catch a glimpse of an emotion or a word... but the general rule the more of the dinosaur the better the echo, and the more of the skull the more you can understand it.

so we come to my mother. complete neck to toe, but NO skull. even my vivus-dinosaur acquaintances think i'm silly for spending as much time "talking" to her as i do. she is a lot of intense emotion, but no explanation.

i've never figured out what happened to her, but i know what she felt in the last moments of her life...
mom's echo begins with the purest joy and happiness i've ever "heard" in an echo, but it only lasts a short time (she'd probably been feeling it for a while before the "recording" of her echo). this gives way to sheer panic and terror going into a moment of absolute determination (to protect i want to say, but i'm only going with my gut feeling... but it would explain why she was on the nest). it finally ends with intense fatal pain (sadly not uncommon from echos at all!), but her's is very pronounced and fast. dinosaur death's usually aren't as quick or powerful as hers (but usually as painful)...

again i can't tell you why or how any of this happened. without her skull all i can get is a "feeling" off her with no words to explain. however that is not to say nothing of her past self has managed to come through deep time to me...

she has spoken a single word to me. only the once, but this singular communication has been the most important word anyone has ever said to me...

i remember it clearly, which is saying something. it is among my first memories ever, and despite my tiny brain making remembering things hard, i'll never forget this moment for as long as i shall live.

it was the first time my legal guardian craig brought me through the museum's galleries (he'd taken me to the labs and collections many times, but this was my first public side tour). most of this i can't recall for the life of me (but if you compare this old photo of me and him there in 2003 to the modern one of my below taken this year in 2009 you'll see there are many differences!), but i certainly recall being brought into range of my mother for the first time!

as craig carried me before her, i was hit with the echo unsolicited (which never happens normally... we vivus-dinosaurs have to listen or probe to get something out of the fossils). at its conclusion, in the usual haunting whisper manner of a fossil echo i heard my mother say "traumador." i knew immediately this was my mother, and that this was her name for me.

i wasn't just imagining this either people of the web wide world! i didn't just take some random name thrown out by a fossil skeleton, and decide this was my 65 million year old name...

despite the fact i grew up like a human, and often behave more like one than a tyrannosaur, i have strong saurian instincts deep within me. this is one of the most baseline. the bond of a coelurosaur chick with its mother. we normally imprint on our mothers, but as i had extenuating circumstances preventing me to do that, this was as close as i was going to get to such an event.

this was the echo of my mother knowing me, somehow, outside of my egg... despite having never seen (or smelled, a very important sense to us tyrannosaurs) me in her lifetime, yet i tell you matter of factly, that was what she'd done. somehow, i was the most burning thing on her mind when she died...

as of such i've always felt a deep and emotional connection to my mother. we never really met, but yet we still have a bond across 65 million years. it makes me feel like in some way as a dinosaur i fit in somewhere (cause it sure isn't easy in the human world being a vivus dinosaur!).

the funny thing about it all is i said it aloud right after my mother, and craig assumed i came up with this out of thin air, and figured it would be the name he'd give me (up till then it had been "little guy" or "rex"... so i'll give him credit for still being on the market for something to call me, and not stick me with one of those!).
once i was old enough to explain where i'd gotten the name from, craig didn't entirely believe me. he thought i'd wanted so bad to "hear" my mother i made up a memory of her talking to me when i was a hatchling.

after all she hadn't ever done it again, right?... well that was true. until today!!!
today as i experienced mom's usual emotion echo, something bizarre, but sadly far from a new thing happened to me...

i suddenly felt uncontrollably dizzy. my mother's skeleton (even the cast skull attached to her) began to glow. it was another magic episode! ever since i'd overdosed myself in mystical gradient radiation (the scientific name for magic) i could detect magic (at least according to professor paradigm's findings so far i could). a long story to be sure, click on some of these links for the full details.

the general gist is that if something magic happens around me, i know about it. magic according to everyone i know has something to do with dimensions beyond our 4D world... i don't know something to do with the stringed up, or no wait, string theory. point is stuff from beyond our height, weight, depth, and time dimensions somehow get into our reality, and i can see them (where many others might miss it).

which might sound far fetched, like dinosaurs hearing echoes from our dead... only today i figured out the two are connected!

professor paradigm said after examining the magic's effect on me, he suspected we dinosaurs absorbed mystical gradient energy and retained it, unlike humans who simply get coated in it. i think this difference explains why we hear our dead ancestors, and humans can't.

prehistoric dinosaurs communicate through magic!!!

i'm not sure how or why, but that's what i sensed when my mom's echo triggered (i tested it again on a few other skeletons and the same thing every time! they triggered magic sensing episodes in me, complete with dizziness and glowing).

unlike the maori magic though, this new "fossil" magic didn't keep making me feel sick or dizzy for long. i'd only feel it for a moment, and then the magic felt more natural... dinosaur magic? as opposed to human (which may not be the case, but this was more pleasant then that other new zealand magic!).

well my mom's usual emotional barrage washed over me (in more detail then ever before... an effect of the magic i wonder?). then an odd silence. not as in the echo finishing (which it normally did after her pain) more like a blank space on a recording...

after a few minutes i started to think i was imagining the difference in the ending, and as i'd spent my time with mom for today, i turned around and began to walk away.

suddenly from behind me. "traumador," i heard in my mother's voice. the most glorious voice i'd ever heard (again). i spun around. unbelieving. in all my years seeing my mother she'd never said my name since that first time. i won't lie, occasionally i'd wondered if craig was right and my tiny brain had imagined mom giving me my name. now i knew for certainty it was true!

just before i could savour that happiness, my mother continued. "my dear sweet little traumador," mom sounded like she was talking to me now, but yet it clearly it was an echo. she had thought or said this in the cretaceous, but yet it was addressed to growup me. "be on your guard my little, danger soon shall stalk you..."

okay that was an ominous. why was my mom thinking i was in danger. more to the point why did the echo give me the distinct impression she meant for me to have this message well after i was out of my egg? i had to be imagining that interpretation (afterall echoes aren't science), she must have been thinking of me in the egg (but me above all my other unhatched siblings? why was i so special?) as the ancient danger she was protecting us from destroyed her.

that had to be it, i thought. it was the prehistoric horror that had consumed her so fast all those eons ago.

what danger could i possibly be in right now?

Elsewhere in the Museum...

(From Layla Oviraptor's personal journal)

Concealing my presence here at the Tyrrell has not been easy thus far, but what choice do I have?

The runt is still here at the museum, and has clearly been nosing around. His timing is far to convenient for his presence here to be anything but a direct affront against the Pack [of the Primordial Feather]'s operation here in Drumheller. Especially given his close ties to the "crate".

As if I needed any further reason to be concerned, but Professor Paradigm has also made his presence known in the region. If there is an organization I do not want interfering in our project it is Palaeo-Central.

Bringing matters to a head, Professor Paradigm confronted the runt yesterday, and I fear they may now be collaborating against us. If so I and the operation may be in grave danger...

I had been contemplating abandoning this whole endeavour, but that would have me returning to the pack in defeat. Something that would greatly undermine my lofty position as lieutenant to the royals [In pack lingo royal= Tyrannosaurid].

However today the tide had shifted against the runt. With such weight, it was unlikely he'd have fathomed it... Until it was too late, in any case.

My secret weapons had arrived, heralded by Desdemona Deinonychus seeking me out in the museum.

I typically do not have a fondness for Dromaeosaurs, but this was one of those rare instances where I felt great pride in knowing they were closely related to me. They were among the best of our hunters [in coelurosaur terms hunter=warrior], and definitely our most subtle. In this dire situation I needed foot soldiers of Desdemona's caliber, and now I had them.

I quickly briefed Desdemona on the development in events since
I'd summoned her. Unlike me, who worried about the possible disaster that could follow a failure on our part, Desdemona kept the cold focused demeanor of a raptor prior to a hunt.

"You worry to much Oviraptor," she calmly assured me. Her eyes narrowed in focused anticipation. "This just makes my presence here all the more appropriate!"

I could not help but worry at her excitement over this delicate situation we were currently both overlooking. That was the way of the predator I suppose, to see opportunity in adversity, thrill in carnage, and to revel in overwhelming odds. It was not for me however, and I couldn't help worry I'd made a mistake bringing Desdemona in to help me.

As I followed Desdemona deeper into the museum my fears disappeared.

The rest of the Crimson Talons were restlessly gathered, ready for my and Desdemona's orders. Clearly they were antcipating the hunt as much as their matriarch.

I could see that Desdemona had brough her second in command Valor Velociraptor to assist her carry out the attack. Backing them up were a number of local Dromaeosaurus and Atrociraptors. Clever of her to not bring in too many noticible outside Dinosaurs. A nice clean local job. One that would hopefully be carried out quickly and quietly.

With a task force of raptor's poised ready to remove the runt, and any threat he represented how could my fears be anything but a thing of the past?

Next: Attack of the Raptors!!!

(Production Note: The clues in the fossil of the weekend have now been realized... "Danger soon shall stalk" Traumador indeed. For a better view of his potential danger click here.)


the scariest book ever! (poachers part 4)

so i'm now next to certain now that there are fossil poachers working in the drumheller area.

however due to my run in with professor paradigm, i've promised to not get any further involved... though if not for my exploring, how would anyone know about the poachers exactly?!? it's totally unfair to kick me out of the hunt for the wrong doers!...

well come to think of it professor paradigm was already here at the tyrrell museum before i set out for my field work, but that's besides the point! how do i know he was here because of it (especially based on what his body guard, lance, told me) in the first place?

so despite the fact i promised not to stick my "snout" where it doesn't belong, i don't see why i can't learn more about the topic of fossil poaching and the supposed "dark side of palaeontology". as i'm academic about it...

the best place to do that (without attracting attention to myself anyways, and thus breaking my promise) was here, in the tyrrell's library.

when i asked the librarian for books about fossil poaching she told me there was no need for many books. as dr. john long of the melbourne museum had written the definitive title on the subject.

now you may recognize dr. long's name here on the tyrannosaur chronicles, as i've referenced his books a couple times now (most notable my summary of new zealand dinosaurs). i have to say he is quickly growing to be one of my favourite writers on the subject of palaeontology!

The Dinosaur Dealers (Mission: To Uncover International Fossil Smuggling) has to be my favourite of Dr. John Long's books so far. not that the topic is particularly pleasant.

this book follows dr. long's (mis)adventures helping an undercover investigation into a stolen set the world's ONLY known stegosaur footprints, from australia. through the course of his journeys, dr. long touches on many of the modern threats to fossils all over the world.

the dinosaur dealers in parts is the story of the hunt for these stolen footprints, and it is crazy to think a palaontologist had this sort of an adventure in real life (outside of a TV show or something). the efforts of dr. long and his associate police sargent steve rodgers at times read more like a super spy tale then a real life search for poached fossils. everything from being pursued by ominous men in suits, a car chase through the streets of a small australian town, to run ins with mobsters and possible terrorists!

i've learned a lot about fossil poaching, smuggling, and collecting issues from this book. i'll cover some of these aspects in more detail later, but here are some of the highlights:

in modern times due to the rise in the price of fossils, there are increasingly more unethical fossil dealers who have no care or concern about the information or scientific importance of fossils and will go to any length (poaching, buying, or even stealing from museums) to acquire specimens if they feel it'll make them a profit.

historically there have been many (and still are) many well meaning and legitimate private fossil collectors who genuinely contributed to scientists and the science of palaeontology, but this new breed of profit only fossil hunter is smearing the name and role of legitimate private collectors, and putting them at odds with the scientific community. which is a shame considering most of the great early fossil explorers of alberta, the sternberg family, were all private hunters by trade (lacking PHDS or formal connections to any institution... rather they'd dig bones independently and selling them to the institutions and/or PHDS).

be careful who you buy fossils from. legitimate dealers who can back up their finds with paper work and knowledge of what they're selling you is fine. however dealers who have great specimens, but nothing to back up their legitimate collection may very well have ties to the black market, organized crime, and even terrorist groups in some cases. by buying from shady dealers you could be helping fund all sorts of uncool things like crimes or even wars!

if you're buying fossils from exotic countries find out the laws about their fossils. for example (as comes up in nearly every chapter of dr. long's book) there is NO such thing as a legal fossil from china. if it came from china it was illegally poached and smuggled out of the country! don't help deplete science's access to important specimens by supporting the theft and removal of countries natural heritage.

just because fossils end up in a museum or collection does not make them safe. increasingly, due to the rise in money value on popular specimens, fossils are being stolen from museums to be sold on the black market. meaning that vital already existing specimens are disappearing from science too!

most interesting of all palaeo-central is mentioned no where in the book! you'd think the organization whose sole purpose is the protection of fossils and the science of palaeontology would have at least its own chapter?!? i know everyone claims their "top" secret, but if that were the case how does everyone i know (plus me!) know about it? interesting in any case that their not in the book. though if you read between the lines you can detect their involvement in a few things, even if it isn't said out so in words.

it was a very compelling, but scary read. i'd recommend it to anyone with questions about the "real life" side of palaeontology. just be prepared for a few moments of feeling sad and helpless (with possible nightmares if you're a vivus-fossil like me!)

here is the link to google books online preview of the book.


something IS going on around here! (poachers part 3)

i decided to head back out fossil hunting today, and TRY to out do my last find in badlands. not that a lost quarry of francis slate is something that can be easily outdone!

i just picked a random stretch of badlands this time, and didn't bother looking around an old coal mine as i had been lately (slate seems to have operated around coal mines a lot in drumheller). to make sure i was somewhere not looked over lots, i hiked a fair distance into the badlands to get off the beaten path.

it took my about an hour to feel i was in a relatively unexplored section. with that i got right into prospecting, but within 20min i made a startling discovery...

a recent excavation!
this wasn't the first of these i'd found during my current field work either, it wasn't even the second! this was the third such quarry, and according to my checking with the museum none of them should be here.
whoever was doing this digging, was doing it illegally! all excavations need to go through the tyrrell before they are allowed to proceed. whoever was digging around drumheller at the moment had definitely not done that!
that put a dampener on my whole trip!
in fact, once i did a quick site assessment, my fossil hunting was over for the day. (so, not so much a dampen as a outright kill!).
whatever they were digging it was BIG! just based on a rough measurement i did using myself as the measuring device (i'm about a metre long... so if i am careful i can use myself as a crude metre stick!) the quarry was about 16-17 meters long, 5 meters wide, and 2 meters deep!
that's huge. especially for around drumheller! the biggest thing your going to be finding is an edmontosaurus and they're "only" 13 metres long... this quarry was more then a quarter larger then that!... which even if it was disarticulated (that is to say its bones were all scattered apart) that seemed too big a dig site for just one...
this whole quarry was a lot like the first poaching site that me and tony had stumbled across. they'd left a lot of expendable tools and materials behind here and there.
only this time there were less tools at this site, as though they'd sorted out a set of gear that now worked. i hazarded a guess that the first site might well have been the poachers first dig, as they had found much of their first gear was substandard, and had to be replaced. which now they had, and thus they weren't leaving behind broken bits of it.
once i'd done a run over the site and noted everything i saw, i raced back to the museum!
i needed to report this at once. two quarries could be chalked up to random petty fossil thefts. three was pointing to a serious fossil poacher on the loose!
arriving at the museum i needed to get to the resource management office which was on the farside of the building. for whatever reason i decided to take a short cut through collections. which in hindsight would have made things in my life a whole lot easier if i hadn't!

the first bit of collections is the unprepared stuff. what unprepared means (apart from obviously not being prepared... prepared being a technical term in palaeontology) is that it houses fossils that have not yet been removed from the rock in which they were found. they haven't even been taken out of the protective field jackets that palaeontologists put on them in the field to safely move them back here to the museum.

to be honest it's not the most exciting section of the museum or even collections. it is basically just a warehouse of field jacket upon field jacket.

however a handy short cut... or so i thought

however when i went by the geology collection, i was in for my second big shock of the day!

the normally neat and tidy cabinets that held the museum's rock collections, were all in disorder. it didn't take a large brain (fortunately for me!) to realize they'd be ransacked!!!

i had the sudden tummy churning suspension that this tied to the poaching i was here to report...

curiosity got the better of me, as i stood there examining the mayhem that was the geology cabinets... i probably shouldn't have looked, and rather reported this too... but can you blame me? how often do you encounter a possible caper, except on TV?

i checked all the opened drawers, and quickly it was obvious one had been the center of attention. the horseshoe canyon geologic sample drawer... many other geologic formation drawers had been opened, but i'd guess they were just opened to check if they contented the horseshoe material.
plus it made sense that the poachers, (whoever they were?!?) would want to look at the horseshoe canyon material. after all so far they'd been doing all their digging around drumheller, and of course one of the major rock units here was the horseshoe...
they'd been looking at rock samples taken from throughout the valley, and not just any rock type. fossil bearing sand and mud stone samples.
i was confused though, most of the samples they'd pulled out of the catalogued order (i assume, to write down information about them) had a ton of snail and clam shells in them. in my experience only areas where glacial lake drumheller had washed over the area or the marine formations, were you going to find those. the glacial lake areas and marine layers were no good for dinosaur fossils though?
i thought the poacher(s?) must have pulled these out to throw anyone off their trail. what better way to keep from being caught then by having everyone looking in the opposite area to where you were going to be!
before i could investigate any further there came a loud and distressed "WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?!?" from behind me... oh man, i knew the voice. it was julia. one of the museum's staff, and in her eyes it looked like i'd just torn her workplace apart!

"julia," i started, but was very unsure how to assure her this wasn't me. my (very tiny) brain wasn't helping either. "i didn't.. this isn't how it looks... it was just like this when i..."

fortunately or unfortunately she wasn't really listening to my babbling anyway...

in a really old skool manner (in that it reminded me of when i used to live and work here at the tyrrell) she proceeded to chew me out on the "use" of collections.

she didn't even remotely catch on to the fact this wasn't me... which she should have. due to the tiny proportions of my arms there was no physical way i could have opened the lower drawers. i'd pretty much have to press my chest up to the drawer handle to grab them... which being so low to the ground i couldn't do!

as julia continued to rant at me, i grew nervous. she was starting to make some pretty serious threats, like reporting me to the collections manager and the museum's director. if that happened i could get banned from the tyrrell for life... not to mention it possibly effecting my museum work back in new zealand.

from behind us, deep within unprepared collections came a loud commanding call "that won't be necessary young miss," i knew the voice... it was professor paradigm.

julia stopped in confusion, realizing the professor was referring to her reporting me. paradigm continued to walk towards us. "if you would please leave the drawers as they are now, i would very much like to inspect them," paradigm instructed. julia looked very annoyed.

despite not being able to see paradigm, or by extension him not being able to see me, he then addressed me anyways. "as for you traumador, i will meet you in the staff lounge in a few minutes. make sure you are waiting for me!"

despite having the wind taken out of her rather harsh lecture, julia was still fuming. "you heard the 'man'," though through her voice, i could tell that julia didn't really know who paradigm was. only that he had an in with the museum's director, and this bugged her (i think she'd been looking forward to avenging her organization by turning me into the director herself!). "get out of here!"

she then added in a quieter tone, so that paradigm couldn't hear her "i better not catch you in here, ever again!"

i did as i was told. julia was really upset (as one would be if they found their carefully organized and sorted collection torn apart like that), and i sure didn't want to see paradigm mad too. so i did as i was told.

as much as i didn't like paradigm, i had to admit he'd gotten me out of a big mess there. i'm sure i could have convinced the director and julia eventually that it wasn't me, but this saved me the trouble (in every sense of the word!).

at the same time i was going to have to contend with paradigm... something i wasn't looking forward too either!

according to the rumours i'd heard, the professor was part of the top secret organization palaeo-central, whose sole mission was the protection of fossils and the science of palaeontology. based on these same rumours, paradigm was not someone you wanted to get on the wrong side in these matters. matters like the potential poacher(s).

after an anxious wait (of about half an hour), paradigm finally showed up. behind that breathing mask of his (i wonder why he has it come to think of it, for the first time?... it makes him look and definitely sound scary!) and his very tinted sunglasses (which i've never seen him take off, again why?) i had no idea what his expression was. if i had to guess not happy, but that's how he always is...

"would you mind telling me exactly what you were doing in the geologic collections this afternoon?" he demanded, but not in a pointed way... if i had to guess, the professor didn't suspect me of ransacking the place.

i told him how i stumbled into it like that, and wanted to take a closer look. "has anyone told you of how unfiltered curiosity will almost certainly get you into trouble?" paradigm grumbled.

"yeah craig has actually," i thought out loud. in fact those had been his exact words... as my legal guardian had told me, if constructive and well thought out curiosity was a most admirable trait in a person (filtered curiosity. filtered by rational thought), but curiosity for no purpose was not only a bad thing, but could be dangerous (unfiltered)... i was beginning to see what he meant.

"has he now," paradigm said in a matter of fact manner. which wasn't just acknowledging what i'd said. it seemed to imply that the professor know my guardian somehow?

then it occurred to me to get back to the situation unfolding this afternoon. paradigm thought i'd just randomly wanted to look at those cabinets. which wasn't the case. i told him how i was trying to report that 3rd poached quarry.

"so it has been you whose been finding those quarries," the professor noted.

"yeah," i stated proudly. "so what are you going to do about the poachers?" i eagerly inquired.

"i beg your pardon?" paradigm said taken aback. "what makes you think it is poachers?"

"uh because they are unauthorized," i stated... thinking that much was obvious.

"that would assume they are all connected. so far there is no evidence in these cases to indicate this," i couldn't believe my ears as paradigm said that. how could it not be clear that they were connected?!?

then came the best part of the whole discussion. "why would you think i would deal with this matter?" the professor asked me honestly... or at least he was acting like it was honest i thought.

"uh, because you run palaeo-central," i retorted, and added. "besides why else would you be here in drumheller? especially coincidentally when a series of poachings was going on?"

"not this palaeo-central nonsense again," the professor groaned, as though he'd heard this a million times (which i'd beat he had!). "i'm only going to tell you once. this supposed organization protecting the world of museums, you and so many others keep associating me with, does not exist! how am i supposed to manage, on top of my already large existing list of responsibilities, the running of an entire international intelligence agency exactly?!? that alone one for whom funding would be next to impossible?" he angrily challenged, i remained silent unable to answer. at least with anything that would have satisfied a big brain like paradigm!

"i'm simply here in drumheller to do some research on some of the vivus-dinosaurs that live here in town." he claimed.

okay, as far as denials go that was a pretty lame one, and i would know. i have to give them a lot when i get into trouble (which as you know is a lot, for some reason!).

sure it was common knowledge paradigm was the expert on us vivus-fossils, but i guessed if i'd pushed the matter any further he'd tell me the key dinosaurs among his test group would be a certain lambeosaurus and styracosaurus, both of whom i knew travelled around with the professor a lot.

then came the part that proved the professor was just trying to cover his tracks. "regardless, i highly recommend you avoid this whole "affair". the tyrrell's director has assured me that the most capable people are looking into these "mystery" quarries of yours, and we would most certainly not want you to get in their way," he leaned in towards me, and pointed his finger at me.

yeah right! i thought to myself... that's what i'd do is just drop my second big find of the trip... an actual genuine fossil poaching caper!

it was as if the professor read my mind (or that i sometimes give myself away when i'm in deep thought through acting things out... stupid non multitasking brain!), and warned me in a very menacing voice. "our next encounter will not be so 'civil' if i catch you poking your snout where it doesn't not belong again, traumador THE tyrannosaur!" oh man my full name! "do i make myself clear?"

"yes sir," i found myself answering... not that i disagreed entirely with my instincts answer!

with that paradigm bid me a good rest of my visit to drumheller, and walked off.

well that confirmed it for me. the question of whether there were poachers or not was answered as far as i was concerned. someone most certainly was stealing fossils from around here, and even more omniously as of the collections break-in they seemed to have access to the museum too...

however if there was something i didn't want to do was run a foul of the professor. i'd had enough scary encounters with his bodyguard lance the lambeosaur to know paradigm wasn't kidding when he implied he could make my life unpleasant if i got in his way.

sadly i was just going to have to stay out of this one, people of the web wide world. even if it would be cool to catch the bad guys and save the day... that sure would have out done finding my slate quarry! i wasn't going to get on the bad side of professor paradigm!

to be continued...