Wednesday, August 24, 2016

We're still out doing fieldwork

The glamour of digging holes in the ground while battling flies and heatstroke. Come for the stuck side by side, stay for me breaking a 2x4 with my brute strength! Enjoy!

Friday, August 5, 2016

It's field season again

Wandering around Montana means lack of blog updates, but we're at least finding a few new dinosaurs. Here's a few good pictures from our first trip out to the badlands. Back out soon to work a few hadrosaur and ceratopsian sites in the blistering heat.
Big mother wolf spider with the kiddos

Dinosaurs hide everywhere

Jacob and I load a huge (4 foot plus) duckbill tibia into the truck

Sometimes the dinosaurs hide really well

Curatorial boot for scale, another duckbill site

Sometimes geology needs to be shown who's boss with power tools.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Pete III finished. For now.

Just for the weekend, the prototype cast of our Daspletosaurus Pete III (RMDRC 06-005) will be shown off in the atrium of the museum, before it gets decent photographs and heads to its forever home. Yes, it has a 2006 specimen number.
The original site as found/explored in July 2005. We were so young.

We've been working on this for a decade. I'm not sure if I should take the day off to celebrate, or take advantage of the free time of getting a huge project off my plate and start something new and exciting. In the meantime, enjoy some of the snowy photos, better well-lit ones to come in a week.

So, this is what a pile of Daspletosaurus looks like

It just looks like such a fast critter, not like dumpy Tyrannosaurus

Nearly 11m of birdy goodness

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Daspletosaurus Assembly: Building a Frightful Lizard

There is actually a very good reason why I haven't updated this blog in a while: We've been up to our armpits in the lab building the prototype cast copy of Pete III, our 11m Daspletosaurus.
Ilium cast fresh in the mold

Progress is going quick by Academic standards, and we hope to finish the cast by early May.
Both feet before assembly

Jacob and I called "dibs" on making this skeleton, since we've been working on the project for 10 years.
We just admired this for a few days
It really is a great thing to see all this hard work finally amount to something tangible
Making the pubis. It is no longer blue
Plus everyone loves a huge tyrannosaur, especially one way more rare than T. rex.
Progress as of a few days ago. Tail is 17 feet (5.2m) long
Stay tuned for some more exciting progress really soon. We're finishing the neck, working out the gastral basket and have a few cervical ribs to go. 

Monday, February 8, 2016

Viva la Muppetfish! 2 new species of Rhinconichthys unleashed.

Bob Nicholls's excellent reconstruction of Rhinconichthys purgatoirensis
So, we've been working on a little public/private partnership project for the past 2 1/2 years here at the RMDRC. In 2013 while he was helping advise on our Megacephalosaurus eulerti skull restoration, Dr. Bruce Schumacher, a paleontologist from the US Forest Service, approached me with a fossil specimen he had collected from the Comanche National Grassland in Southeastern Colorado. From what he showed me, I could tell it was a pachycormid, and one of those toothless specimens I am so fond of preparing. I had never been so giddy about a fish head in a concretion before!

Kevin Lindahl as he discovered the specimen
The super informative pectoral fin, our first clue to its identity
Bruce had already done some basic prep work on the top of the fish. Some paperwork with my boss Mike Triebold was completed and we were under contract to finish preparing, molding and casting the specimen. I spent several hundred hours with air scribes and air abrasive blasters removing the extremely tenacious concretion surrounding the skull. What we found on the underside was astonishing.
Top of specimen showing nice skull roof
The underside showing googly eyes and super long lower jaw
The fish has a remarkably flappy underbite with relatively huge eyes. It reminded us of the character Beaker from "The Muppet Show," and the informal nickname "Muppetfish" stuck. Of course that name isn't going to fly in publication, so we named it as a new species, Rhinconichthys purgatoirensis, after the local landmark river. A second species, Rhinconichthys uyenoi from Japan, is also described and Rhinconichthys taylori from England is better described with new information from the Muppetfish Rosetta stone. When we released the 2010 paper on Bonnerichthys, these species were touched on briefly, but only R. taylori was complete enough to work on.

Why is this cool? Well, we've gone from one species in the genus from one place to having representatives from all across the Northern Hemisphere for several millions of years. It also shows that commercial paleo and federal agencies can work together to get stuff done, to the chagrin of some in the academic community. The specimen is to be permanently housed at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

You can find a copy of the paper here:

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Everyone loves a little tail

Or even a huge one. Just wanted to share some cool pics we took of Pete III's 5.1m long (17 foot) tail. Caudal 1 is missing from this layout (it was still in the pelvis jacket), so add on another 18cm or so.

Not too shabby

Jacob, our living 2m scalebar

The Fossil Brewing Company shirt is apt

Thursday, November 12, 2015

A day in the life of a Daspletosaurus bone

Some people asked me not too long ago about what we do in order to get some of these bones ready for molding. In the case of Pete III, our Daspletosaurus from Montana, the condition of the bone gave us some additional problems. All specimens of course get excavated and painstakingly prepared by our expert staff, but in Pete III's case, even the prep necessitated the invention of new techniques which I published on a few years back. The entire specimen was pixelated, with some bones made up of hundreds of thousands of fragments. Lots of glue was needed to even expose the bone, which is huge, literally Tyrannosaurus rex sized. Once done the left ilium looked kind of like this:

Next up is reconstruction of any major missing bits and holes with epoxy putty like Aves Apoxie Sculpt. That's the grey stuff.

We then apply a barrier layer of B-72 to hold everything together for the next steps. Shiny!

Then we take our gorgeous bone and smear the whole thing with tinted Hydrocal.

 Yuck. OK now it doesn't even look like a fossil. Never fear, most of it will be gone soon. The main aim is to work the Hydrocal into all the seriously tiny cracks in the surface to better hold the bone together. This also reduces the amount of the relief in the specimen so molding goes much faster. The excess on the surface is removed with air abrasion.

Doesn't look so shiny anymore, but we can fix that with a wee bit more of very thin B-72.

And there you have it, one half of a bone restored in a few days time. Now we just make a support jacket so the entire thing can be flipped over and the process repeated.