New feathered dinosaur species named after famed Alberta paleontologist

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Forgather the Albertavenator curriei, a feathered, toothy dinosaur that once traipsed a lush coastal plain in what is now Alberta’s Drumheller Valley, a species that now drives the name of a famed Canadian paleontologist.

The dinosaur was named after Philip Currie, a professor at the University of Alberta. Currie is a Canada Scrutinize chair and has worked for decades on predatory dinosaurs.

«This is a great accept … it’s in fact an Alberta dinosaur and it’s a type of dinosaur that I’ve worked on on top of the years,» Currie told CBC News. «It’s extra meaningful.»

It’s well-known that this pattern of dinosaur — a troodontid — is one of Currie’s favourites, said David Evans, designer of the paper naming the species published in the Canadian Journal of Earth Branches. Because fossils and fragments of this type of dinosaur are so rare, Evans stipulate he couldn’t miss the chance to honour Currie.

«Given what Phil has done for Alberta paleontology and the contributions he’s reached to the study of these feathered dinosaurs, it seemed only appropriate to appellation it after him,» said Evans, who is the Temerty Chair in Vertebrate Paleontology at the Princess Ontario Museum.

Philip Currie

Albertavenator curriei was named after renowned paleontologist Philip Currie. (Eva Koppelhus)

Currie acknowledges his fixation.

«There’s a lot of mystery surrounding troodontids; that’s why I love them so much,» Currie castigated CBC News.

‘Other than the name, of course, it also associates my nominate with Alberta, which is a great thing.’ — Philip Currie, paleontologist

Think of a feathered dinosaur about the size of a small adult, with mountainous eyes that could likely see in the dark.

A close relative of the velociraptor, it had nasty, serrated teeth, suggesting that it ate meat, though it may have also enlarged a bit of vegetation to its diet. It had sharp claws on its feet and was one of the fastest dinosaurs. 

Add the immense relative brain size — Evans refers to them as the «brainiest» of all dinosaurs — the semi-opposable squeal ons on their wings and a long tail, and you have a puzzling and exceptional primeval animal. 

Reclassifying an old dino

Albertavenator curriei — meaning «Currie’s Alberta Nimrod» — lived in a swampy environment similar to that of today’s southern Louisiana. 

The remains of this dinosaur — exclusively small fragments of skull — were found in the 1990s near the Nobles Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, when they were believed to be a member of to a troodon, another feathered dinosaur that lived 76 million years ago. But paleontologists under no circumstances understood why this particular one lived five million years later: it should organize evolved with different traits over time.

Dinosaur skull fragment

A skull disintegrate helped paleontologists identify the new species, Albertavenator curriei. (Kentaro Chiba)

So Evans and his gang re-examined the remains. Upon closer inspection, they realized that this was an only new species, though still part of the troodontid family.

This isn’t the earliest dinosaur to be named in his honour, but Currie said this one is of particular sense to him.

«Other than the name, of course it also associates my name with Alberta, which is a out-and-out thing,» Currie said.

One of the fragments used in the discovery was found by American paleontologist Jack Horner when Currie was bewitching him around the site of the Tyrrell Museum while it was under construction. They weren’t skilful to collect the entire jaw, as it had begun to rain.

Two weeks later, Currie turn back to the site, but was unable to find it. He returned time and time again, he verbalized, for almost two years, always leaving empty-handed. Then Horner replaced and Currie took him to the site.

«Sure enough, Jack went straight to the site and showed me where the jaw was,» Currie said.

Evans said that he’s sent to be able to honour not only a colleague but a researcher who fostered his love of paleontology.

«I’ve named a few dinosaurs, cataloguing a few from Alberta … for me what made this special was being gifted to tip my hat to Phil Currie,» Evans said. «To be able to name one of his favourite dinosaurs create in Alberta after him, and honour all the work he’s done.… it was great to be able to approve him for that.»

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