Bonebed Find Nears 50 Years

November 1, 2018
Fossil Excavation

Excavating in Pipestone Creek Bonebed (from left to right) Cam Reed, Dr. Corwin Sullivan, Robin Sissons, Dr. Nicolas Campione, and Dr. Eva Koppelhus.

WEMBLEY, AB – Next summer marks 45 years since the dinosaur bonebed discovery at Pipestone Creek and palaeontologists are brimming with excitement to see what new discoveries might lie ahead.

Schoolteacher Al Lakusta, now retired, located the remains of numerous individuals of the horned dinosaur Pachyrhinosaurus in 1974, a breakthrough that ultimately would lead to the development of the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum. Mr. Lakusta was honoured last Saturday when the Town of Wembley proclaimed Al Lakusta Day, marking 10 years since the Pipestone dinosaur was formally described as a new species carrying his name – Pachyrhinosaurus lakustai.

“The fact that extensive work continues at the original site and throughout the area demonstrates just how rich the dinosaur fauna of the Grande Prairie region really is,” says Corwin Sullivan, Curator of the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum. “Spectacular as it was, Al’s original find was very much the tip of the iceberg, and there are decades of exploration still ahead of us.”

Several priorities have been established for summer 2019.

  • Expanding the long-term excavation at the DC Bonebed on the north bank of the Wapiti River. The abbreviation DC reflects the abundance of both dinosaur and chelonian (a zoological term for turtles, including tortoises) fossils at the site.
  • Continuing the excavations started last summer at the Spring Creek and Deadfall Hills sites.
  • Investigating a fossil site on the Beaverlodge River that a local resident recently reported to Assistant Curator Derek Larson.
  • Carrying out extensive prospecting to unearth more fossil localities.

During summer 2018, the Boreal Alberta Dinosaur Project undertook fieldwork in the County of Grande Prairie and the Municipal District of Greenview from July 25 to August 15.

Excavations at two sites – the Spring Creek Bonebed on the Wapiti River and the Deadfall Hills Bonebed on Nose Creek – produced numerous duck-billed dinosaur bones. Extensive information on a dinosaur footprint site on the Redwillow River was collected, and the field team made silicone moulds of some of the tracks.

At the DC Bonebed, a large volume of overlying rock was removed in preparation for excavating the fossil-bearing layer at the site next year. Team members undertook some prospecting trips and brief visits to other localities.

In total, 238 fossil specimens were collected, almost all of which were transported to the University of Alberta for research purposes at the end of the field season. After they have been studied, they will move to their permanent home at the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum.

The 2018 field team numbered about 30 people. Participants included locally based scientists and volunteers, and a large contingent of researchers and students from the University of New England in Armidale, New South Wales, Australia.

“The presence of the Australian group reflected the global importance of fossils from the Peace Region,” Sullivan says.

Meanwhile, the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum was well represented at a key global event – the Oct. 17-20 Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (SVP) conference held in Albuquerque, New Mexico. SVP is the largest and most important annual meeting in the field of vertebrate palaeontology, and five presentations at the conference (one talk and four posters) were co-authored by Currie Museum scientists (Sullivan and Larson). All five presentations were well-received, and three focused on fossils collected in the Grande Prairie area over the past few years.

The Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum – a 41,000 square foot world-class facility named for Canada’s preeminent palaeontologist and highlighting the rich fossil resources of Northern Alberta – opened its doors to the public on September 26, 2015. It is Canada’s second devoted dinosaur museum, and is located 19 kilometres west of the City of Grande Prairie in the Town of Wembley.

Media contact:

Corwin Sullivan Curator Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum

Derek Larson Assistant Curator Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum 587-771-0662 ext. 405

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