i put the " marks around fossil in this fossil of the weekend, as elephant birds aren't really that old. these bones would have at most been 10's of thousands years old. in all likelihood they are a lot newer then at. elephant birds were wiped out by humans, and as of such typically their remains are a lot newer then the average fossil...
i was feeling kind of hopeless as i made my way out of the university of calgary. how on earth was i going to find a handful of dinosaurs in a giant city like calgary? especially when they were trying to hide!
pulling me momentarily out of my depression, was a man that walked by me in the science building's lobby. it took my tiny brain a minute to click into who he was, but i thought he looked familiar...
then it hit me, and i sprinted after him...
"doctor hildebrand?" i called, and fortunately for me i remembered right!
dr. alan hildebrand turned around and was slightly puzzled to see me (i assume more because he is not used to dinosaurs calling him down, rather then hearing his name) "yes," he said to confirm it was him. "how can i help you?"
i'd never met dr. hilderbrand before, but knew him by reputation and from his many appearances on science documentaries.
i quickly introduced myself, and he was kind enough to put up with my fanboy yammering for a couple of minutes.
why was i so in awe of meeting dr. hilderbrand you might ask?
well i shall answer that question... even if you didn't ask it!
in short he is one of "the dudes" when it comes to asteroid research...
why his meteorite work is of interest to me in particular (not that asteroids aren't cool in their own right!) is that his most famous discovery related to space rocks was the one that (may) have wiped out the dinosaurs!
you have probably heard this idea...
a really big asteroid hit the earth 65 million years ago at the end of the cretaceous period (this impact in fact "caused" the end of the cretaceous as the extinction is what geologists used to define the periods end), and the damage its crashing into our planet was so powerful it devastated every known ecosystem of the time!
the asteroid gets lots of the blame, but in some ways it was the earth's "fault" things got so bad after the interstellar accident. the meteorite was going so fast and had so much energy that it exploded and vaporized when it hit the planet.
well this kicked a lot of things up into the air (and possibly higher then that!) ranging from dust to outright molten rock! that's right this was so big an impact that sky filled up with something very much like lava, which then rained down just like evaporated water normally does when it gets to heavy to stay in the air.
if the earth had been made of different stuff, this wouldn't have happened. so this is why i say the bad things that followed are as much due to do with the earth as the asteroid.
there was only one thing worse then raining lava (which no doubt did untold damage... which we find evidence of all over the world in rocks of this era), and was the smaller lighter dust and dirt that continued to float. after the heavier fiery stuff fell out of the sky (causing forest fires ALL over the world at the same time!!!), the cloud of dust lingered in the sky and blocked out all the light.
meaning there was no sun for plants to use in making food. if you get rid of plants the whole animal food chain falls apart!
this caused the final extinction of the dinosaurs (i say final, as the vast majority of dinosaurs species had gone extinct well before this event during our 160 million year existence, only the last few families still alive at this point were alive to be killed... which sounds weird i know, but is true!), and numerous other creatures of the time.
this whole sequence of events has pretty much been accepted by science. even people who don't know a lot about dinosaurs or palaeontology can tell you the rough story. however this wasn't always the case...
when this theory was first proposed by geologist walter alvarez and his father, super famous nobel prize winning physicist, luis alvarez it was hotly contested. one of the key problems they had in proving their theory, was where did the asteroid hit?
this is the part of the story where dr. hildebrand played a key role... though not at first.
a few years before the alvarez's proposed an asteroid impact 65 million years ago, in 1978 the crater site was indirectly discovered by geologist glen penfield. he recognized a number of anomalies in the local geography of the yucatán peninsula of southern mexico (i used to call yucatán the little alligator mouth at the bottom of north america...).
however due to an inability to get access to sites and better samples he was unable to work out what exactly he had stumbled across. penfield wrote up a paper about what he could only see as a cataclysmic event in the cretaceous, but suspected the final answer would be extraordinary...
many years later enter, then a grad student, alan hildebrand. he grew very interested in the theory of an asteroid impact and began trying to find the prehistoric crater as his grad project. unaware of glen penfield's work in mexico, hildebrand slowly began to close in on equatorial america as the most likely site. recognizing clues in haiti, hildebrand might have closed in on mexico by himself, but he then learned of glen penfield's findings.
hildebrand approached penfield, and the two resumed penfield's abandoned search from over a decade previous. it was a historic team up, and with hildebrand in america he could get access to the one thing penfield couldn't in mexico. old drill samples stored state side. analyzing these samples the two published on how they believed yucatán was the site of the meteorite's landing.
they would be proven correct. a later satellite survey from outer space would detect a still visible (underground buried mind you, but it was undistorted millions of years later and thus visible when you look through the rock with sensors) a nearly perfect circular crater.so like many of the biggest discoveries, it took a lot of people to get to the truth. one of whom i was shaking the hand of here today!
"well it was nice to meet you," dr. hildebrand said in conclusion. i thanked him for his time, and expected to be on my own way... then he caught me totally by surprise with another sentence. "hopefully i'll bump into you down in collections soon."
"what?" i asked in total confusion. then i thought i understood "oh no i don't work here at the university. they don't have an theropod 'lab rats'."
this seemed to make sense to dr. hildebrand. "that explains why i hadn't seen any of you guys down there before."
"guys?" i asked not following.
"your friends," dr. hildebrand offered, hoping i'd know what he was talking about. obviously my lack of following him came across. "all you theropods down in the geology collections."
did he just say what i think he did!?!
i begged dr. hildebrand to explain... i couldn't believe it, not only was he an asteroid guru, he may have just lead me right to the crate i so desperately was trying to find!
while going into the deep bowels of the uni's geology department's collections dr. hildebrand said he'd encountered a group of theropod dinosaurs in one of the more remote corridors of the basement. he figured they were just part of the palaeo departments dinosaur lab rat collection.
"were they coelurosaurs?" i asked.
"well i'm no expert," dr. hildebrand warned as he thought about it a second. "now that you mention it, if i had to go off my momentary observations, yes i would say they all were."
"thank you so much!!!" i said completely sincere to dr. hildebrand. "you have been a HUGE help! i have to go though."
thinking about now, i guess it was a little rude of my to run off on dr. hildebrand. it was for a good reason... hopefully i'll get to meet him again and explain my reasons...
however now i had a pack hunt on my claws...
don't look at me people of the web wide world! i'm not sure why two incredibly smart scientists like caleb and kirsten are going to ask rodents, but that's what they said they were going to do. so off they went to try and track down these rats.
next thing i know caleb came wandering back with a vivus-dinosaur in tow!?! not what i was expecting at all ...
"i thought you said you were going to find a rat?" i found myself asking out loud... not necessarily how or what i wanted to say. one of the draw backs of the small brain.
"this is one of the rats," caleb retorted. i just looked at him disbelievingly. seriously, even i know the difference between a rat and a dinosaur!
suddenly the dinosaur piped up. "he means lab-rat, i can see your confusion," it mockingly told me. it then sarcastically greeted me "i'm theodore by the way. nice to meet you."
i was taken back for a moment, but then again thinking about it i had been somewhat rude. despite the little ornithischians immediate dislike of me, i recomposed myself and tried to redo my introduction... after all i hadn't specifically addressed it yet.
"nice to meet you theodore?" i paused unsure of his genus (and thus last name... most of us vivus-dinosaurs weren't given very imaginative last names). "i'm sorry it was rude not to introduce myself a moment ago. i'm traumador the tyrannosaur, and it is good to meet you."
suddenly the mid sized dinosaur picked up (i say mid sized as for a hypsilophodontid [like anyway] dinosaur he was actually quite large). "traumador, like as in the traumador?"
"uh maybe?" i shifted a bit unsure what theodore meant.
"you were the one who turned down the pack of the primordial feather?!?" he asked very excitedly.
"yeah," i said in a drawn out manner, not sure what response that was going to get me.
"then it is indeed very much a pleasure to meet you! wait till the other rats hear who i just met!" the large small dinosaur said excitedly. "i am theodore thescelosaurus. theo to everyone famous and important who knows me, and you do now know me. in fact you need to say theo as often as possible around my friends."
thescelosaurus that explained theodores large size. They were the largest of their very long running family the hypsilophodontids, although there are some long running questions as to just how they fit into this family... which come to think of it is what caleb studies!
"what am i suddenly?" caleb quipped in. "chopped liver! who feeds you, cleans up your messes, and takes you to the movies from time to time. why aren't i calling you theo? how can i now be the most important person you know?"
theodore didn't take his eyes off me, and spoke over his shoulder at caleb. "not now! you'll embrass me in front of the hero."
"fine," caleb dismissed his large saurian sidekick and walked towards me. "theodore still needs newspaper in the corner of his pen as he still hasn't figured out to piddle outside consistently."
"CALEB!" theodore shouted in annoyance. not that i laughed. we dinosaurs are a little more feral then humans. it isn't easy for us to break into the civilizaed mold of human society on such things.
to calm theodore down caleb continued. "i once caught traumador talking to a poster of a tyrannosaurus rex in the tyrrell's gift shop not realizing it wasn't real. for over two hours!" i thought it could be my friend...
it was as though caleb had handed theodore a toy, for the agile hypsilophodon sprinted off spouting off how he couldn't wait to tell the others. caleb turned to me. "sorry about that. i needed to give him something to gossip or he'd have never gone quiet. you can just mention you were 6 months old when i caught you doing that, when he retells the story to any of the other dinosaurs around here." caleb then winked at me. "now let's go find kirsten and see if she has tracked down our other in the know lab rat."
other dinosaurs. i had no idea the university had any vivus dinosaurs on hand, that alone more than one... and caleb and kirsten were calling them lab rats. i didn't like the sound of that!
"what do you do to these lab rats?" i asked with a bit of pointedness.
caleb caught my drift right away. "not what you're thinking traumador. we have had to," he paused for a moment thinking of the right word. which is something i've always liked about caleb. he never says anything without thinking about it first, and making sure it is the proper thing to say. i've always admired (and envied) him for that ability. " 'adopt' a number of vivus-dinosaurs from other institutions and museums recently, as they could no longer properly manage their supervision."
as if to emphasis what caleb was saying about this lack of supervision, theodore jumped into a nice patch of potted flowers and started chopping on them. "theodore stop that right now! you know how much trouble i get in with the grounds keepers!"
"why do you say recently?" i asked noting his use of the word earlier. again caleb doesn't say something without it being important, and a key part of his meaning.
"there has been a massive increase in the number of vivus-fossils people have been finding in the last few years. it started with just those few random and exceptional specimens turning up vivusly preserved, like yourself. now we are striking entire geologic units that are nothing but vivus specimens! there is no logically explanation as to why they are suddenly all turning up now. logic dictates we should have been finding them at a dispersed and steady rate throughout the history of fossil collecting. yet right now they are on a exponential increase," informed me while yet being puzzled by what he said.
wow, i didn't even know where to begin understand what that meant on so many levels. not only why they were finding so many of us vivus dinosaurs, but what all these new vivus dinosaurs were going to mean for me and our kind living in the present...
"many museums and institutions aren't able, or willing, to put in the resources needed to raise and tend to all these, at times certainly, attention requiring specimens once they've found them," caleb continued. "having watched what happened in drumheller with its dinosaur infestation problem, the international palaeontological committee has tried to set up a program to relocate vivus-dinosaurs to institutions that won't exploit these animals, and take as good of care of them as possible."
"has it worked?" i asked with concern.
"so far," caleb said uncertainly. "we're only really hitting the beginning of the 'crisis'. for example the U of C is currently home to four adult vivuses, nine juveniles, and sixteen hatchlings," that didn't sound too bad till he added. "but we're sitting on forty unhatched eggs, and have a waiting list of over twenty seven more waiting to be accepted. with only a staff of 6 full time palaeontologists, and a dozen research students to look after them all."
"that is shaping up into a crisis," i stated somewhat obviously. caleb just nodded.
a brief silence hung as we both reflected on the idea of nearly 100 vivus dinosaurs soon to grace the university. caleb finally got back to my question. "we call these guys lab rats, as we have been using their physiology to supplement fossil research. the experiments are pretty low impact though. just things like getting them to run or walk, all usually for a treat. it's not like the data we gather is readily accepted or publishable."
i looked at caleb puzzled. he just shrugged. "apart from dr. paradigm, the palaeontologic community is not at moment willing to use vivus-fossil 'material' as scientific evidence. there are just too many questions on how you guys are all surviving millions of years unharmed."
kirsten wandered up to us. "i found helma, but she's being a scarredy cat like usually. so we'll have to goto her."
as we wandered down the hall, it occurred to me i hadn't asked theodore my key question yet. though my hopes were dashed. the large hypsilophodontid had not heard anything about the pack in calgary. however bringing up the pack, next thing i knew theodore started listing off everything he knew about them...
or at least what he thought he knew. for a secretish society the pack has done well at keeping the outside world from find out much about them. a lot of what theodore said about pack membership and recruitment was wrong, so i kind of ignored everything he said after that. i couldn't really trust that any of it as accurate.thankfully i didn't have to listen to theodore's pack rumours for too long. we approached a juvenile hadrosaur, probably in its midteens (in dino-years). kirsten warned me as we walked up to it. "let me do the talking. she doesn't care too much for theropods, and she can be very jumpy even at the best of times."
speaking of jumpy, the duckbill whirled around as it heard us coming. she immediately picked me out of the lot of us, and talking about me (not to me mind you) "who is that?!? why are you with a theropod? has he be security cleared for this building?!?" it half asked half accused.
"he's fine helma," kirsten assured her large lab rat. i could already tell helma was a hypacrosaur due to her crest and colouration (i'd met some before in drumheller... hypacrosaur eggs are pretty common in alberta. especially at devil's coulee). "he just needs to know if you've heard anything about the primordials."
the teenage duckbill grew tense upon the mention of the pack. "why? they're trying to eliminate anyone who knows too much about them? in that case i don't know anything!" helma definitely stated.
kirsten went to go pat the hadrosaur and calm her down, but when she put her hand on helma's back...
helma had a momentary startle. which with duckbills is quite loud.
kirsten smiled slightly embarrassed. "as i'm sure you're noticing our vivus dinosaur are not prone to quirky behaviour and demeanours," she sarcastically defended. "poor helma here was exposed to 'traditional' theropod/duckbill relations at far too early an age from some pictures in a book or TV. which has given her a perpetual predator prey view of the whole world ever since, and naturally she is always the prey. so don't take it too personally. she does this with everybody. it just happens you are a theropod this time."
theodore laughed at helma's freak out. frankly i don't blame him. it was pretty funny, though a little weird.
helma yelled at him to stop, and a whole squabble scene played out before me. the two dinosaurs fought like little hatchlings with theodore provoking helma, and helma reacting just how he wanted. then caleb and kirsten intervened like parents to try and break it up. i kind of wanted to walk away really, at least till they sorted it all out.
by the time they finally had it settled all four of them were upset. kirsten and caleb both explained to helma if she had heard anything, that telling me would keep the pack away (which was a bit of a lie... i had no way of keeping the pack away from the university or the lab rats, really).
the duckbill said she certainly hadn't heard anything about the pack being around the uni. she stated otherwise she would have certainly raised the alarm... which based on her little fright a few minutes earlier, i'm certain everyone would have noticed!
this was no good. i still had no leads... and i was out of dinosaur associating people.
what was i going to do now?!?
to be continued with a chance run in (with a special guest star!!!)
fortunately it was just one thing at a time, so i didn't have to worry about that last part till we found the feather in a haystack... er city stack... ummm scape? the pack was going to be hard to find okay!
the good news is i happen to know several dinosaur centric people who work in calgary. at the university to be specific.
these were my old tyrrell buddies caleb and kirsten. back in those days they were both seasonal technicians in the summer, but went to skool the rest of the year to study palaeo. not a lot has changed with them, other then the uni palaeontology thing has become their whole life... all the time! sound grim i know, but not when you realize this is the final stage in their growing up to finally be palaeontologists, it will probably be worth it!
not only had i been meaning to catch up with these two old friends, but as palaeo PHD students, all they did was work on dinosaurs and fossils. if there was any gossip about the pack around these two were bound to have heard it.
both were well... surprised. fortunately happiness followed, which i've learned is not always the case (at least when surprise and me are in combination). we had a quick catch up on our lives. all involved in the chat thought their activities were boring to the others, but yet the other side was eager to hear all about it.
"huh?" was my only response to that.
"they approached me, and told me they could make my studies go smoothly if i were to look into some of the issues surrounding vivus-theropod. in particular how to easily discover more," he stated matter of faculty. "when i refused, they warned me that i might experience certain 'set backs' with my research."
one of the fine and huge teeth of my aunt, black beauty, the second tyrannsoaurus rex found in alberta. from the collections of the royal tyrrell museum.
fun fact about my aunt's fossils, due to the potassium rich sediments she was buried in, my aunt is now slight radioactive! not that your in danger after 5 minutes exposure to her, but the museum has had to put in special ventilation to all her storage and display areas so that the radiation doesn't build up. kind of cool!