my cousin of the week #13

one of my all time favourite birds, a kingfisher. this is a sacred kingfisher or todiramphus sanctus i saw in new zealand, but they are also found in australia and many of the other islands between the two. they were called kōtare by the maori.


sticking my snout where it shouldn't be!

i'd figured out what the pack of the primordial feather was poaching! the naughty coelurosaurs were after vivusly preserved dinosaur eggs... i suspected in hopes of finding more theropod eggs with which to raise new recruits for the pack.

in the tyrrell's geology collections there had been 20 samples from potential egg bearing sites throughout the horseshoe canyon formation. of those though only 12 were well mapped, meaning that the poachings were almost certainly at one of these!

i'd investigated as long as i could after finding out about these sites. they'd hit 2 out of the 12 sites when i started my investigation. i'd spent all of yesterday checking 5 of the other 10. the first 2 put me in a false sense of relief, they hadn't been hit yet. however the next 3 in a row had all been dug at!!! meaning 5 out of the 7 sites i'd been to had been stolen from... there was no knowing just how many eggs they'd gotten (though by my count of the dig holes, at least 14 "nests" had been excavated!).

i got up with the rising sun and checked 2 more sites already today. one was fine, but the other had been poached and recently too! if i was right the dig had been within a matter of days... that put it at 6 out of 9 sites stolen from so far. a very scary average i must say.
as i approached the 3rd site of today i realized with a chill, the poachers had been following roughly the route i had been for the remaining 10. starting close to the museum and then moving away. only unlike me, they had avoided sites that were harder to get to. the 3 sites that they'd left alone, would not have been pleasant to get in and out of carrying heavy equipment and field jackets full of fossils. even nice small ones like eggs (which can come in BIG batches!)

walking through the badlands my blood ran cold as just around the bend i thought i could hear a jackhammer grinding away. there was a lingering smell of dust and smoke as i grew closer. both things i'd experienced at fossil digs before...

i now sped up to a jog. i was so eagerly watching for signs of a dig i didn't look properly where i was stepping. my ankles (which are way higher on my legs then a human's) hit something solid, that nearly caused me to fall over. looking about my feet though, there was nothing visible... weird.

as i came around the bend i yelped out loud...the site had not only been poached, but it was in the process of BEING poached!!!

there were tools, field jackets, and even field notes around a number of excavations along a single mudstone layer. it could only have been paradigm's egg bearing layer!

why there were field notes confused me a bit... why would the pack need to keep those? only someone interested in the scientific information of the site would need to record anything...

after only 30 seconds i'd seen enough to know i needed to report this back at the museum. whoever (or whatever) was doing the digging was clearly taking a break or something, as they were no where to be seen. however they no doubt would return soon to resume work on the site. i intended to have the authorities swoop in and catch them in the act.

as i was about to turn and run as fast back to my car and my "cell" phone as i could, suddenly i felt very uneasy. from deep within my primal predatory instincts i didn't feel safe...

just as i was about to look around the wind shifted direction... my incredibly powerful t-rex sense of smell instantly picked up a strong scent. a human, one i'd met before, but not someone that popped to mind immediately... and they were RIGHT behind me!!!

before i could react to this presence the whole backside of my head was a blaze with intense pain, as i was karate kicked from behind. the only good news was it was so well placed a blow the pain lasted but a mere moment. i was out cold a second later...

when i started to wake up i was really disoriented. it felt like i was floating, and my limbs won't work. as i faded more into consciousness i realized i wasn't floating, but rather lying with my back propped against a hill. as for my useless limbs there was good reason they won't work. my arms and legs were all tied up.

my eyes were still a little hazy, but i could make out voices. "what do you mean he just showed up?" a woman's voice demanded of someone. i'd heard it before i thought

"i'm telling you, i was working on the last nest when suddenly he came wandering up from the highway," another woman, who wasn't as familiar as the first. "we're just lucky he triggered the trip wire or i'd have had no warning at all!"

"this is just great!" the first woman stated in pure frustration. "right when we hit the jackpot!""

"what are you so worried about?" the other asked her. "his just an extra item for sale. how many collectors do you know who would say no to their own vivus tyrannosaur? that alone annex co. they'd pay through the roof for him!"

"i guess you're right," the first woman replied, though she didn't sound completely convinced. "i'm just worried. the museum staff say he's connected to central somehow."

the second woman countered enthusiastically. "if that were so, you think they'd send a little more then just him," there was a pause, as the second woman waited for a reply from the first. which she must have got, a nod would be my guess, the second carried on. "they don't have too long to send in the cavalry. we just need to jacket up these last three nests, and we can get out of here."

"not too soon," the first woman impatiently stated. "i've been having trouble keeping up my cover. the tyrrell's administration suspects its someone on the inside, and they've been pulling surprise inspections. i've only got an hour before i'm supposed to check back in. they think i'm leading a tour right now."

tour? i thought, as my mind started to shake off the fuzz of unconsciousness. there was only one department in the museum that led hikes! the education department... i knew who the first woman was!

as my sight came back, i found i was right as she stood towering over me, the new "education" staff member megan.

"i'm giving you one chance to answer this, traumador. if i don't like the answer i get, you'll lose something precise too you," she instructed me. "does anyone else know you're here?"

"no... no one... no one else...else knows i'm here," i stuttered terrified. i realized what an idiot i'd been in trying to keep my investigation secret. no one knew i was out looking for these sites. in fact i hadn't checked in with anyone for days. for all anyone knew i'd gone back home to new zealand!

"see i told you, and he's not smart enough to lie to us," the other woman said from around the hill. i couldn't see her, but i had a sneaking suspicion who it was. "he is so stupid he thought it was a bunch of dinosaurs working this job when he told us about it!"

what? the pack of the primordial feather had nothing to do with the poaching?!? then why did they try to kill me??? what are they guarding back at the museum, and then what are these two women after dinosaur eggs for?????

megan snapped back. "it's not as dumb as you seem to think it is. i've seen dinosaurs excavating before!"

"really?" the other woman asked in disbelief. she then challenged. "where?"

"out of the two of us, who has worked at the american museum of natural history and the carnegie again?!?" megan harshly rebutted, as she clearly didn't like her colleague questioning her claim. i'd venture she more to the point didn't like having her authority being questioned at all. with a resume like that she must have known her stuff!. "i've seen vivus carcharodontosaurs and abelisaurs digging sites just like this one in brazil, patagonia, and argentina."

okay so i'd been wrong about the pack being behind this dig, but i was right about them being capable of it! carcharodontosaurs and abelisaurs may not be coelurosaurs and thus in the pack of the primordial feather, but they aren't that different in build from true coelurosaurs...

though as jo came into sight from around the corner (i had thought she was the other woman) my concerns came back the present...

"what you think than," jo asked megan. "we put him to work digging?" she coldly joked.

"no," replied megan.

"lighten up," jo smiled. "of course i was joking! i wouldn't risk an instant million bucks like him run off now would i. these young tyrannosaurs can run pretty fast when they want to..."

oh man this wasn't good! this was SO beyond not good! i dare say this was beyond terrible!!!

i was about to be sold as a illegal vivus-fossil... worse still no one out there even knew i was in trouble!!! why did i have to go play the hero?

"let's just finish up. i'd like to finish this dig in under an hour so i don't have to go back to the museum again," megan instructed. "besides the quicker we get these out, the faster we can go collect our money!"

what was i going to do people of the innerweb... i was in the clutches of fossil poachers, and helpless to escape!

To be Continued...


the spectre menace

(From Layla Oviraptor's personal journal)

I have difficulty finding a word to express what I am feeling at the current moment. There are too many options.

My hope had been to protect
Crate 14 from the Pack[of the Primordial Feather]'s enemies. Instead I have now ended up with not one, but as many as three of these enemies all actively trying to interfere with the project!

Making this incredibly stressful situation all the more unbearable has been the never ceasing presence of Desdemona Deinonychus, my self-inflicted accomplice. She has clung to me the last week like a fresh hatchling, unable to fend for herself. I normally find her unbearable, but this new defeated Desdemona has me yearning for her "old" arrogant and insufferable self I'd some how lost.

I understand defeat is something a hunter [hunter=warrior or soldier in pack lingo] like Desdemona is unaccustomed too, but she has become truly pathetic at moment. The way she sulks about you won't guess she is the matriarch of the feared dromaeosaurid pride, that alone the captain of their dreaded Crimson Talons. Making this all the worse she is now beginning to shed some of her disgrace onto me and make me appear equally weak.

My bringing Desdemona had proven a grave mistake. She certainly was going to be of little use to me now other than perhaps directly guarding the crate. If the overall situation was to be salvaged it was going to be up to me, like usual.

I had formulated a new strategy to try and distract our enemies from the crate, and hopefully kill some of them along the way!

As it was just a distracting tactic, I was at the simultaneously have to maneuver the crate out of harms way. I briefed Desdemona on my plan for the crate, and the Crimson Talons' new role escorting it on its way.

"We are retreating!" Desdemona stated in disgust. The first hint that the arrogant raptor hadn't lost all her spark. To a hunter like Desdemona a repositioning and regrouping like I was about to stage was seen as cowardice. "Why?!?" she then demanded

"Do I really have to answer that?" I responded in annoyance, as I was hardly in the mood for her stubbornness. However rather then let the rhetorical question do, Desdemona defiantly stood waiting for me to acknowledge her question. Fine, if she wished for my 'opinion', then she was going to get it! "We need to retreat Desdemona, because you and your precious Crimson Talons utterly failed in eliminating the Runt like you were supposed to!"

"You dare imply that I and the Talons failed like incompetent fools?!? You speak so arrogantly for one who the Lambeosaur would have crushed in seconds!" Desdemona hissed defensively, I'd hit a nerve. Though I may have done too good a job. The raptor's tail was curving upwards to assume a pre-pounce stance. I'd seen Desdemona dispatch too many opponents (both of within the pack and out of it) to ignore this subtle threat.

"You are taking my statement too seriously," I pretended to assure Desdemona. I had meant for it to be a biting insult. However she was right. "I don't expect you or the Talons to be capable of defeating Lance. Especially when he is the one ambushing you."

My acknowledging Lance's prowess as a "hunter" disarmed Desdemona. We both stewed silently for a moment on the topic of the troublesome hadrosaur. Never before had any prey been as dangerous as Lance. He was such a capable warrior that he'd even bested some of the Royals in combat. [Royal= Tyrannosaurid in pack lingo]

"We should stand out ground! This is our museum. It is time we demonstrated it!" Desdemona boldly challenged as she returned to the conversation. "We simply need to bring in more hunters."

I openly laughed at this suggestion. "This is not our museum, Desdemona, you should know that. It is and always has been Professor Paradigm's favourite. He tolerates our presence here as it would cause a confrontation to get us out. That and I think he tries to use it to keep tabs on what we are doing. If he ever thought it would be to his advantage to oust us from here, Paradigm would do it in a moment. He is one of our most effective enemies," I cursed out loud.

The Professor has always been one of the greatest threats to the Pack of the Primordial Feather. Him and his Palaeo-Central organization have foiled many of our best laid plans, and now that Paradigm had finished forming and training this Task Force of his, he was all the more dangerous...

"Exactly, it will take a confrontation to remove us from this place!" Desdemona tried to convince me. "Paradigm has already gathered most of his strength here. Let us crush it! All we need to do is gather our hunters from North America, and he will be a problem of the past. Think of the glory that will be bestowed on both of us for such a feat?!?"

To think moments ago I'd wanted Desdemona back to her usual self! She was so busy imagining leading our troops to victory her eyes were visibly glazed over. "There will be no stand off with Paradigm," I dismissed her whole stupid idea. Desdemona was about to protest, but I cut her off. "Think you stupid predator! Paradigm would hear the instant we sent out a summons. Before our forces could properly gather he'd overpower us, and take the crate. More to the point even if we were to rally a proper war party, do you seriously want to risk the crate in the middle of a battle?"

Desdemona's only reply was a dumbfounded blink. I'd ejected her from her envisioned victory, and overwhelmed her with the reality of our situation. Rather then risk her recomposing herself, and starting another irrelevant argument I decided to tell her my entire plan.

"You are to mobilize the Talons to extract the crate in five hours. A truck will be showing up then," I instructed her. She was about point out the still outstanding point of Paradigm, his Runt and the Task Force. "Leave Palaeo-Central to me."

My last claim was too much for the raptor to handle, for once she openly laughed at me. Something she rarely would dare to do. "How do you plan on defeating them exactly?" I couldn't blame her for asking. If I had to combat even just the Runt, and his Royal predatory physiology, I won't fair well. That alone against Paradigm or his Ornithischian lackeys.

Luckily this couldn't have been further from my plan. "I'm not intending to take over your role as the prime hunter, so calm yourself Desdemona," I jokingly assured her. "I simply am going to use our enemies existing weaknesses against them."

Desdemona was intrigued but simply tilted her head in curiosity rather then ask a dumb question. So, I decided to reward her for staying silent. "Their attentions are already divided by supposed fossil poaching. Paradigm and the Task Force are busy scrabbling around the badlands, while the Runt has missed the crate altogether and gone to prepared collections for some reason."

We both chuckled over that mistake on the Runt's part. After my confrontation with him the other day, I was very concerned he was going to make a move for the crate. Despite posting the Crimson Talons to guard the crate, I wasn't confident we could keep it safe. The Runt had been demonstrating an annoying ability to beat the odds.

"How are you going to use this poaching distraction to our advantage?" Desdemona inquired.

"I am leaving you to prepare to crate for departure, while I go and make a deal with Spectre." I answered.

Hearing the name Spectre, Desdemona's tail went rigidly straight, a raptor's version of fear. "THE Spectre?" she nearly whispered out of disbelief. Despite not being a warrior of her caliber, I had just earned Desdemona's respect.

"Yes the one and the same Spectre," I reinforced. "Which is why I leave you in command of the crate and its retreat. If I do not return, I leave it to you to pass on news of my sacrifice to the rest of the pack." Desdemona bid me farewell with a solemn bow, as a show of respect.

I tried to keep my composure as I marched past her and her now onlooking Crimson Talons. Absolute anxiety and dread now raced through my body, as I realized I was beyond planning and imaging my battle plan. I now had to leave the safe confides of my imagination and enact these deeds in real life. In other words, I was actually going to have to meet with Dr. Spectre now!

As I approached the isolated spot in the badlands outside the museum we had arranged by email I once again had to compose myself. For the mammal Spectre was already waiting for me.

"You say you have something of interest to me," he coldly stated through his large breathing apparatus, causing the words to be eerily distorted.

"I do," I tried to calmly reply, but I failed. My only hope was that his understanding of my Oviraptorian tongue was not strong enough to grasp my emotional expressions. As they are very different from human mammalian signals.

His eyebrows raised in predatory anticipation, as he clearly detected my stress. "You better be right, Primordial Feather. I've come a very long way to be here on your word, and me and this place don't have a shall we say agreeable past. I'd hate to have returned here because you are 'mistaken'."

I tried to calm myself by reminding myself he was just another mammal like the rest. However I was too sound of mind to be fooled by self rationalization like this.

Spectre was no mere human, though at first glance one could be deceived. He was a palaeontologist, the one group of mammals we Vivus-Dinosaurs deal with on a day to day basis. Unlike him though, the majority of them are weak pathetic things equipped with only knowledge about us Vivus survivors. Spectre was not only one of the most intelligent of them, but he was also armed with far more then his large brain. For despite his inferior frame, Spectre was hunter easily of Desdemona or even the Royals level.

Of all the players in the ongoing Vivus-War, Spectre was the most singularly deadly player in the fold. Yes, any of the factions could crush him with its entirety, but the effort of doing so and the damage he would inflict upon it would leave that faction defenseless against the rest.

I took an incredible risk approaching him. Especially as I was about to try and coerce him into acting on the Pack's behalf. Be it only as an aside. My hope was the gain he stood to make from my proposal would outweigh the fact I was making a gain as well.

If I failed to convince him, there was good reason I had told Desdemona to be prepared for my demise. Spectre was infamous for his brutality. Especially when trying to acquire palaeontological specimens. I did not want to think of what he might do to a Vivus-fossil such as myself to render me into the spectacular specimen I potential represented.

With this in mind I explained my reason for contacting Spectre, and my suspicions as to what the Runt might represent scientifically. I then waited for his reply in the most terrifying and drawn out seconds of my life. Keeping in mind I have faced down Carcharodontosaurids before on the front line of the Vivus-wars, and this fear now did not compare.

The answer I got was no cause of relief. He drew his fingers together and cackled. A most disturbing sound due to both the malice it betrayed and the alteration its sound underwent through his breather.

"If your hypothesis is correct, I am in your debt Primordial," he mused. "This is too perfect. Especially with Alvar in such close proximity!" Spectre referenced Paradigm by his first name.

As if I didn't need another reminder of this man's dangerous nature, he directly referenced the feud between himself and Paradigm. There were few the Professor feared, but Spectre was certainly was the chief amongst this list. Like all great enemies they had once been the best of allies, only to betray each other. Now they fittingly displayed their animosity to the world in the form of scars so great they needed breathing masks to survive them.

Spectre reached for his trademark Katana, and I suddenly went numb expected to be dispatched by it. I misinterpreted his intentions, for a moment later Spectre pivoted and began walking away, clearly on the hunt.

"Just so we are clear, Primordial," he cautioned, slowing his pace for a moment. "I am well aware you are using me as a distraction against Paradigm. Though the discovery you have alerted me too is ample compensation. Just be warned, if 2003. 12. 7.
[Traumador's official fossil catalogue number] is not what you claim he is, then I will be coming to claim something of equal value from your beloved pack." With that he marched off into the badlands.

I wasn't keen on sticking around. Especially with one of the most dangerous human predators now stalking these badlands.

As I reentered the museum and retook command of the crate's removal I suddenly was overjoyed. I had not only made a successful deal with the devil, but I had now sent him hunting my enemies. There was the slim possibility he would come looking to collect later, but that was only if I was wrong in my guess about the Runt. Something I was certain I was not!

To be continued with Several Unexpected Surprises...


fossil of the weekend! #34

a cast of the giant armadillo relative glyptodon from the melbourne museum in australia.


cracking the case wide open!

i had them... i was about to uncover what the pack of the primordial feather was poaching from the badlands.

i'd managed to sneak into the tyrrell museum's collections, right under the noses of the crimson talons i might add! (i sound like i'm boasting, but it actually worries me just how easy it was to get by them!). now i could retrace the break-in that happened in here a little while ago.

i was certain the poachers had used the rock samples in the horseshoe canyon drawer to figure out where to dig up their targets. if i could decipher what the clue was they had been looking for, hopefully i could figure out what kind of fossil they were stealing!

my only problem was the horseshoe canyon geology cabinet itself. it had so MANY samples for me to go through...

the number wasn't surprising really. all you had to do to collect more for this specific section of collections was walk out of the museum and up to ANY of the hills around it and grab some rock (minus the very top ice age layer ontop of the valley walls).
still this wasn't good. as i was supposed to be finding what the pack was after...
with several hundred layer and formation samples to go through, i was really hoping whatever they were looking for was obvious!

my geology know how was intermediate at best (i'm more of a fossil guy really). considering how fast the break-in had seemed to be (it happened while collection's staff were nearby!) i was thinking it must have been something easy to spot in a hurry... hopefully i would know it when it when i saw it...
the good news was it was just the rock samples... had the poachers also hit the horseshoe canyon formation fossil drawers i would have been looking through collections for at least a week! there are a lot more horseshoe fossils kept here then rocks!
for the first several drawers nothing caught my eye... i grew more worried with every other vile and box i looked in, as none of the samples seemed noteworthy to me...

then i hit something. in the back corner of the fifth drawer, was a fine mudstone sample full of snails and clams...

this wasn't the first time i'd seen this. when i went back to the poached sites, the majority of the poachings at the 1st site and all of them at the 2nd site had been from mudstone layers laced with snails and clams...

i pulled the sample aside.

even as i did so, i thought there was a chance i was reading to much into this shell criteria.
both snails and clams are common in two other formations in the valley, afterall. the layer lining the top of the valley from the 15 000 year old glacial lake only had fossils of freshwater snails, nothing else. further down the valley in the oceanic rocks laid down before the horseshoe canyon formation, the most common fossils are clams.
there was a chance this sample was either run off contamination from one or both of these layers into a horseshoe canyon level. or it was just a filing mistake, and this specific sample was simply mislabelled or misplaced from another formations cabinets (which does happen).

i carried on looking. stress and anxiety started to eat away at me as the single clam/snail sample become an ever increasing singular oddity. i wasn't finding anymore like it...

as i came to the last drawer of the whole horseshoe canyon formation collection i panicked... clearly i had imagined the whole snail/clam connection... there must have been something else in these drawers... something i hadn't noticed at all!!!

my panic nearly caused me to skip the last drawer and start all over... fortunately my small brain doesn't cope with changing outer world tasks well while it is in deep thought. i just plowed into the last drawer while dreading having to start over...

i'm glad i didn't start all over!
in the last drawer i found almost nothing BUT clam and snail samples!!!

which was weird. the specimens had all been collected independently and over many years. in fact in the notes that accompanied each of them, no one had even remotely connected any of the samples with each other. that alone gathered and organized them into the same drawer...
no! someone had pulled them all out of their various correct spots and drawers and rearranged them together into this one on purpose!

it made sense. this last drawer was a perfect hiding spot, as i'd just demonstrated. it was right at the ground, so you had to bend over to look in it (this is one of those rare good times i'm SO short!). not the usual place someone would start looking randomly. more to the point, if you didn't know to look for them, you could very easily happily search the other 40 drawers of the horseshoe canyon, and never know you missed this cache of weird samples in the last drawer...

i at first thought the poachers had stashed them all here out of sight and out of mind. however, it occurred to me they hadn't had had time to sort anything. the cabinet had been left a total ransacked mess when i found it after the break-in. the poachers had probably had to leave these shell samples scattered amongst the rest of the horseshoe collection.

so who had reorganized these snail/shell samples together and hide them... there was one person i knew who had a big interest in the poaching case, and more to the point had been in the collections moments after me... professor paradigm!
the question was why had he hidden these all?... i couldn't help but feel it was a tactic to try and keep anyone else (like say me) from stumbling onto the same trail as the poachers...
okay so now i had a reoccurring oddity sample type. in addition to them all have lots of shells , i had evidence they were "hot" items. they were the only rock samples that had been re-sorted and removed from their proper catalogue order in the clean up from the break-in! the question now was why were they so important?

i could now safely eliminate both the extralayer contamination and/or in the wrong drawer theories. there were 20 snail/clam samples, and 12 of them had thorough field notes to prove exactly where they had came from. all were horseshoe canyon formation, and all were from the red deer river valley!

in fact it was these accurately collected field notes that confirmed they were connected to the poachings! the third sample had been collected from one of the poaching sites i'd "found"! rifling through the rest of the field notes i quickly found the other poached site i knew of. there was no doubt now... the poachers had being using the samples to find sites!!!

i stepped back to calm down from this excitement... okay traumador, i thought to myself, you did good. we found the bad guys "treasure map", but we still don't know what the treasure is...

somewhere in the back of my brain a voice was screaming about the snails and the clams... they were the key. the worst part was i knew why, i just couldn't remember why...

i flipped through the remaining ten sites, and found nothing to help jog my memory. in desperation i went to the eight iffy documented samples. they had information, but not very precise. they all seemed to be from older collecting, back from when the museum was being set up in the 1980's, and were initial exploration with the possible intent of further exploration later on, but nothing thorough at the time. clearly no one had followed this up (which happens in science. there is so much to learn you can expect it to all happen within your lifetime!)
as of such these eight wouldn't have been much use to the poachers. the vague geographic details given were not exact useful for surgical hit and dig runs like the fossil thieves had been using. if someone had wanted to track down these layers it take you a couple days of looking with this info. you certainly would have found them, but not quickly.
i thought these eight vague samples weren't going to help me either... till i caught a reference on the last one. "sample of surrounding sedimentary matrix from TMP 85. 14. 1"... that was weird. all 19 other samples were collected from the field as just rocks. this appeared to be some saved rock from a prepped fossil...
TMP 85. 14. 1 was a tyrrell museum catalogue number, but it could have been any of the 150 000 fossils stored here!... yet this particular number rang a bell in my head... okay not really, as i don't have a bell, nor have i ever heard a bell unless one were present... let's just say it seemed like a very familiar number.
oh course! how could i ever forget it?!? that was lillian, the girl of my dreams', catalogue number!!! i zoned out for a second missing and thinking of her, and drooling over the saurian goddess' hotness...
wait a second... reality set back in... lillian's dig site had never been confirmed. which irritated darren tanke to no end! she was one of the few modern lost quarrys (in fact all the other modern missing dig sites from alberta were "oddly" vivus dinosaurs)... this made no sense. why was there suddenly a lost record of her discovery here in a geology drawer?
till i noticed the report author's signature... i should have guessed... professor paradigm!
he was the world expert on vivus dinosaurs, so it made sense that he was finding many of them. based on how hush hush he seemed to keep most things, hiding the locations of vivus fossil sites fit his profile. i just never would have expected him to hatch a scheme to hide scientific data from the scientific community. i almost wanted to report him... when the true significance of this hit me...
hatch a scheme... traumador you pea brained idiot, i cursed myself. that's just it! literally hatching... you can't get a vivus dinosaur without a vivus egg!!!

the snail and clam shells, they were a key ingredient to preserving fossil eggs!!!
how could i not have seen this before...
it all made sense now!
everyone i'd been talking to had suspected that poachers going to this much trouble in alberta must have been digging up something new and never before seen around here.
sure dinosaur eggs were known from alberta, but they were from farther south in the province in devil's coulee (in fact as that area was close in geologic age to the horseshoe, everyone had just assumed lillian had been found down there).
no eggs had ever been found around drumheller before...
at least on the formal record. it seemed paradigm had found a series of layers through out the horseshoe formation that did indeed preserve eggs, but kept it a secret. that is till now. as the poachers had learned his secret.
the fact they were eggs, and that these had produced vivus-dinosaurs (lillian for example), now completely explained why the pack was involved. how else could you get more pack members if they all went extinct?... you dig them up for course!!!
this was huge... i'd "cracked" the case, and hopefully before it could be hatched by the pack.
i grabbed the top sample's field report and rushed out of the museum to see if i was too late...

it took me to a nice little stretch of badlands about a 10 minute drive west of the museum.

i rushed quickly (but carefully... i still remember my close accident in the badlands) towards the layers location. reaching the hill marked in the report, i let out a sigh of relief. there was no signs of any digging.

yet examining all the mudstone layers in the hill, i found in the fourth one from the bottom the signs i was looking for. a fine grain mudstone full of snail and clam shells.

slightly down the hill i found a nice spot where the layer had slumped and exposed some micro-fossils. though they were neat and dandy, i was looking for just one thing.
my heart nearly skipped a beat when i spotted it.

this is the sample i brought back to the museum. a piece of dinosaur eggshell...

i'd just found something that had never been found around drumheller before (officially anyway)!

the scary part was the pack had too, and at at least two sites. there was no telling if they'd already hit any or all of the other nine other known layer locations...

there was only one thing for me to do.

find out!

to be continued with the true nature of the poachers...


my cousin of the week #12

a new zealand tauhou, also known as the silver-eye, white–eye, wax–eye, and blight bird.


fossil of the weekend! #33 and palaeo challenge #4

a fossil snail shell, from the new layer i'd "discovered". little did i realize that these little things were THE KEY clue in the whole ongoing poaching crisis around drumheller!

this leads to the latest palaeo challenge people of the innerweb. complete with a cool prize from prehistoric insanity for any correct guesses!

it was right in front of my snout the whole time (and anyone who reads my blog!). i'd stumbled on the answer to this already in my trip. the hordes of snail and clam shells that lined this specific layer turning up throughout the horseshoe canyon formation were telling me what the poachers were after. only i hadn't thought of it!

can you figure out what a huge number or snail and clams in a mudstone layer left by a slow moving river could indicate? (hint i talked about it in a previous post during my homecoming, i just hadn't connected the two!)


the mounting problems

the pack of the primordial feather was still one step ahead of me in their scheme to poach fossils from around alberta's badland. however today i could tell i was closing in on them!

i was going to try and retrace the pack's break into the tyrrell museum's collections today(hopefully without having to resort to breaking in myself!). they'd been after the geologic samples in the horseshoe canyon cabinets. obviously there was some sort of clue in these rock samples that was leading them to whatever type of fossil they were stealing... if i could figure out what the clue was then i could figure out what they were poaching.

as i walked through the museum towards collections, i found that i was being overwhelmed by nervousness.

you ever get that people of the innerweb? limbs going all numb. at the same time your chest tightens up and it feels a giant python has crept into your ribcage and is tightening up in there keeping you from breathing? well that's what it felt like to me anyways!

to try and calm myself down... as i was possibly going to have to play it "cool" if i ran into collections staff... i tried to pop into familiar and calming places throughout the museum.

my first stop was the auditorium...

man this spot in the tyrrell had a lot of memories. the most prevalent of which was my job interview that got me my job here at the museum all those years ago... here is a link to movie video that includes that interview!

many other cool things had happened here though. way too many for me to talk about today. maybe another time if people are interested.

a side effect of my small brain is that when i'm confronted with a powerful memory it tends to overlay reality. meaning i can have events from the past play out in front of me while the present is going on... which is weird.

today i thought i was having another one of those merging events. i could hear distant voices (for some reason the past always plays back in echophonic sound... you ever get that?), and i assumed i was having a flashback moment. only this time there was no picture.

then i realized the conversation was not one i'd ever heard before... which didn't make sense! till it dawned on me, it was happening right then in front of me behind the stage!

sadly my t-rex hearing isn't anything special. not that its bad mind you, i can hear a bit better then a human, but its nothing compared to my sense of smell (i have one of the best noses to have EVER evolved!). however i'm sure i heard one of the two voices mention "they're starting to talk an awful lot about poached quarries".

as i approached the stage the voices suddenly hushed in a startled manner, my presence had been noticed.

emerging from the stage was education staffer megan, who you might recall i'd met when i first got to the museum for this trip home. with her was another woman . i couldn't help but notice this still unknown (to me) museum staff member had a labcoat on that was covered in dried plaster of paris... the sort sort used in field jacketing.

there were education programs at the museum that used plaster, mind you. i'd just never seen a education staff get so covered in it before. typically you only get that covered when you're out at a real dig...

"why hello traumador," megan greeted me. she introduced her friend as being jo... which struck me as odd, i thought that was a human boy's name? oh well, you learn something everyday!

i greeted them back. i couldn't help but ask. "i'm sorry, i couldn't help but overhear you mention poached quarries. what were you talking about?" i asked trying to pretend i didn't know what was going on.

i had two reasons not to let on i knew anything. the biggest was i was under the impression the whole poaching "situation" was being kept secret, and people around the museum weren't supposed to know about it. that alone being talking about it... in the auditorium while it was deserted. something about megan and jo discussing it here bugged me reason... but i couldn't put my claw on why.

second of all, if it got around i was talking to people about the poachings, word could get to professor paradigm. he had threatened to do some meanish things to me if i didn't keep my snout out of the whole affair... which to be fair, i now had my snout in it to the point my neck was engulfed now! so it was best not to alert paradigm to this fact!

both megan and jo looked very uncomfortable for a moment upon hearing my question. however that was replaced quickly by devious smiles. "don't lie to us traumador," jo said. "we've heard the stories going around. you were the one who found the poachings in the first place, aren't you?"

oh oh, was it common knowledge i was involved? not that i was worried about paradigm being upset, as he already knew i was the one who found them. however it just gave the pack of the primordial feather that much more reason to be angry with me!

they both wrapped their arms around each other in a jovial manner when i hesitated in responding. "come on traumador, we're all friends here, museum staff and former staff alike," megan assured me. well i liked to feel that way. all of my best human friends (outside of new zealand) were all tyrrell staff members of one time or another. against my instincts i confirmed i had been the one to find the poachings.

for some reason they shifted their stance, which was outwardly friendly, but somehow gave me a funny vib. "do you know who they are and what they are after?" megan pointedly asked.

the incredibly cheerfulness about (our all being "friends" rather than) the poaching, was starting to creep me out. i told them it was the pack, and both megan and jo reacted in a bizarre manner.

i can't tell you what that manner was exactly, not in words. just something deep within my predatory tyrannosaur instincts didn't like the minor shifts they both made in the body posture at hearing of the pack's involvement.

they both laughed, and wanted to know more about my theory. almost as though it were a joke or something... i had to get away from the overly chummy twins, so i excused myself saying. "sorry i have something important i need to do."

okay that was bizarre, and definitely wasn't helping me collect myself. that was the first weird thing that had happened to me in the auditorium. bad things had happened there, mostly creationists (man those people and their make belief history scare me! but that's another story for another time), but never anything bizarre like that.

i decided that of the new staff i'd met, megan and this jo were my least favourite so far!

fortunately leaving the auditorium i found myself in the museum's learning centre. another place i had many fond memories. some of the best were my teaching at badland's science camp.

helping me chill, as planned, were some cool new decorations they'd added to the learning centre since i'd left the museum.

a flock of cool wooden pterosaurs.

man, they were neat. just like the skeleton play sets made of balsa wood i used to play with as a hatchling.

i enjoyed the simulated pterosaur swarm for several minutes. all the while walking slowly towards collections. i should taken momentary breaks from staring up at the ceiling though. had i bothered to watch where i was going i might not have had my second run in of the day!

thankfully i have my previously mentioned super smell. suddenly i was aware of a very not human smell in the hallway (i can smell things for a REALLY long time after they've been a place... especially in enclosed none open places like buildings! so usually anywhere inside a building just "stinks" of human). it was a dinosaurian smell, but not a dinosaur type i was very used to...

i was startled to find myself face to face with an oviraptor!

somehow its smell didn't travel as far or as strong and any other dinosaur i'd ever encountered. just must be something about them... point is it was there, and i'd had no early warning.

my fight or flight instincts flared up to red alert. oviraptors were coelurosaurs just like me... meaning there was no way this one won't be part of the pack... which considering the pack's heightened presence around here lately was no surprise.

"you!" she hissed, i could tell she was a female the instant i heard her 'voice'. more to the point she knew who i was, and clearly didn't like me...

i wanted to match the resentment and anger she displayed towards me, but curiosity overcame me. "who are you?" i kind of dumbly asked, which in hindsight probably was way more insulting then a cliche reply like 'you!' back or 'we meet again'.

the oviraptor was caught off guard by my removed from the situation question. instinctively she answered "layla," followed by nothing more. somehow based on who she answered i could tell she was someone important within the pack. had i just met one of the big wigs in larry's little club?

i jumped on the lull my question had caused, and decided to have a show of force. "you should just give up on your little scheme here in town layla. i know all about it, and once i get into collections it'll be all over. go back to the rest of the pack and tell them to never show themselves in this museum again!"

as if my exaggerated threat wasn't enough to try and upset the oviraptor, my mention of the museum's collections clearly hit a weak spot. she visibly winced in the form a of a neck twitch. oviraptors communicate a lot through their necks.

"i dare you to try to enter collections," she threatened back, though the curve in her neck betrayed she was slightly nervous. i was onto something with the collections angle! though layla had no doubts about her next threat. "not show ourselves in this museum," she laughed, a horrible sound from a oviraptor i assure you. "we are this museum, runt! nothing happens here without our knowing or say so. if i were you, i'd consider the rest of your time here with great care, or we might remind you of just how much we do control it!"

okay so that last bit was of the normal pack melodramatic variety.

i decided i'd spent enough time in close range to a primordial, and sprinted past layla towards collections... though the oviraptorids may look similar to our common relative the ornithomimids they certainly didn't have their leg build and thus the same speed. there was no way layla was going to catch me at my top speed. which i used all the way to collections... i'd given up on a relaxing walk through the museum.

i was going to bust the poaching case wide opening!

that is till i nearly burst straight into unprepared collections (read this link to learn what unprepared collections is), which was crawling with raptors!

i could now see why layla had so eagerly dared me to try and enter collections in her first threat. the pack had positioned the crimson talons in the tyrrell's collections to clearly guard the clues it held about their activities...

this was not good! this was SO not good!!!

i'd barely survived my last run in with the crimson talons! (see here and here) this time i couldn't count on a rescue though...

i was going to have to sneak into collections (as opposed to break in).

the good news was that unprepared collections wasn't the only way into prepared collections. there was no way i was going to be able to sneak through unprepared though, there were even raptors patrolling the shelving!

i had expected prepared collections to be worse... but to my surprise it was empty!

that was bizarre... the raptors must have been expecting most people to use the obvious path of unprepared to get into prepared collections. which just seemed dumb. even to a peanut brained peace loving t-rex like me! the backdoor to prepared was easy enough to access. better yet from their point of view it was a tighter space, ideal for an ambush...

why would the pack put all their guards on the wrong collections space?

it didn't matter i guess. prepared collections appeared to be completely safe.

so what is the difference between unprepared collections and prepared collections you might ask?

the first and foremost, prepared collections is a lot more impressive to visit than unprepared... this is where all the cleaned off and studied specimens of the museum are stored (unless they are out on display for the public in the museum's galleries). so it is a giant warehouse-like room full of all things palaeontologic and geologic!

sadly i was going to have to skip the fossil shelves, the coolest section in my opinion, and make my way to the more boring looking (but equally informative and important) cabinets...

i made it to the geology collection aisle. the answer to the poaching mystery was contained in here, and i intended to find out what it was!!!

to be continued: with the target of the poaching!!!


my cousin of the week #11

an australian waterhen i saw at the melbourne zoo.


palaeontologist to the left of me, palaeontologist to the right of me, sorted and identified...

i had a problem. well more to the point the palaeontologic community of drumheller had a problem. the pack of the primordial feather was poaching fossils, and so far no one was putting a stop to it! that is till now...

i was going to figure out what the pack was up to. to do so i needed to identify what kind of fossils they were stealing.
to help me do this, i'd JUST collected a bunch of sample microfossils from around the various poaching sites. i had now brought them back to the royal tyrrell museum, where i hoped one of the museum's curators could help me figure out something vital to solving the poaching mystery.

i ended up super lucky! there was a good chance i was about to save the day.

not only did i managed to get an audience with an expert willing to help me out... i got TWO! both were very keen to see if they could help with the poaching case, which hadn't been officially announced around the museum, but rumours of it had starting making the rounds. if there's one thing that scares palaeontologists its people stealing fossils before they can be studied!

on my left was dr. donald brinkman, director of preservation & research here at the museum. what his job title means is that he is THE head scientist at the museum, and he has to make all the tough calls when it comes to research and studies here at the museum.

dr. brinkman specializes in fossil turtles and, of more importantly to me today, microfossils. with both dr. brinkman attempts to find out why and how the environments during the late cretaceous were changing to help us understand climate change today.

you may remember dr. brinkman from when i still worked at the tyrrell. i went on a dig with with him and tony to collect microfossils. he also appears in my movie on microfossils (which i recommend watching, that way you'll totally understand what we were looking for here today).

on my right was dr. françois therrien, curator of dinosaur palaeoecology of the tyrrell. palaeoecology is the study of ancient environments, and dr. therrien uses every clue available to him to try and not only reconstruct the world of us dinosaurs, but us dinos as well.

to do this he studies everything from macro fossils, to micro fossils, and even (his main speciality) prehistoric dirt which we call paleosols.

between these two great experts on reconstructing prehistoric environments, i was sure to find out everything there was to know about the layers the pack had been poaching.

within moments of looking at the fossils i'd collected, there was a lot of promise in them.
many of my specimens not only recorded animals that lived in this environment, but also some of the interactions these creatures had with each other.
this small bit of hadrosaur tendon for example, told us not only was there duckbills in the poached era (not doubt edmontosaurus) but those marks you see all over it were left by a raptor's teeth! a dromaeosaur had eaten my duckbill (most likely after it was dead... based on what i'd seen it was hard for raptors to take down a living duckbill!)
both palaeontologists were engrossed with my specimens for a good couple of hours.

though they were nice enough to take quick breaks and tell me what i'd found, and what they were thinking about the specimens.

the funniest of these asides had to be when dr. therrien found a tyrannosaurid tooth (most likely an albertosaur) in the mix. he picked it up and held up close to my mouth. "you aren't missing a one of these are you?" he joked. "because it'd be pretty easy for us to replace it."

we both laughed, and i tried to follow up his joke with my own. "fossil bling! instead of gold, i could have a permineralized tooth!"
françois laughed, but in a really annoyed way. he suddenly jabbed the tooth into my snout. ouch i have to say! it may have been 70 millions of years old but it was still sharp! "only i may joke!" dr. therrien proclaimed.
he was kidding mind you, but the tooth had been sharper then he'd thought. he said sorry, and we got back to investigating.
after 2 hours both palaeontologists had come to a conclusion. my fossils were definitely telling a story.

both poached layers had been deposited by during brief floods of otherwise calm meandering rivers.

dr. brinkman was certain of this due to the fish bones i'd collected. fish are very preferential on the type of water system they live in... so their always a great indicator.

the samples of rock i'd grabbed from each site were both a fine grain clay based mudstone, which dr. therrien found to be a dead give away.

yet this didn't tell any of us anything more. it explained why i'd found so many clams and snails in the layers, but not what was being poached.

both scientists said they'd think on it when they could, however they had their own projects to get back too. i didn't mind, i'd wasted enough of their time.

it was just too bad i couldn't take them out to the site (i was pretty sure professor paradigm would have gotten word of my taking two of the world's top micro fossil experts into the field) as they no doubt would have spotted things out there i hadn't been able to tell them or bring back to the museum.

they also had permission to do more then surface collect. so we could have dug into the situation. i wasn't about to be as bad as the poachers and illegally dig myself... even if it meant i could catch them.

so some how i'd ended up at yet another dead end...

though there was something bugging me about those clams and snails. it occurred to me i forget mention their over abundance at the site to either dr. brinkman or therrien. i'd do it tomorrow i thought to myself, if my next plan was a bust.

i had one more angle. the one other place the poachers had hit.

the museum's geology collections... and as i'd found the "crime" scene before anyone else, i knew exactly which drawers they'd been after. i suspected the pack had been looking for clues on more spots to dig at. if i could figure out the clue they were looking for in the drawer, then i could use it to catch them!

to be continued: with a break in of my own!