The Eric the Red West field trip 2017 commenced on Saturday 4th February and ran for a period of three weeks. More than 60 people volunteered to attend the dig during those three weeks, with a core crew that attended for the duration, but most volunteers stayed for just one week. At the end of the dig more than 500 fossils had been catalogued, including one ornithopod dinosaur jaw and a number of isolated ornithopod teeth.
Preparation of the fossils is a labour-intensive exercise, as the rock is much harder than the fossil bone and has to be manually removed, as opposed to chemically removed using acetic acid. With the sudden death of David Pickering, Museum Victoria’s Vertebrate Palaeontology Department’s Collection Manager and head preparator, the preparation of this year’s fossil bones was reorganised. While the bulk of the preparation will continue at the Museum, three volunteer preparators have made themselves available and will prepare some of the specimens outside the Museum.
The initial inspection of the fossil bones has revealed that a large number of isolated dinosaur vertebrae were recovered; some complete and others missing centra or dorsal processes. Most appear to be from small ornithopod dinosaurs like Leaellynasaura amicagraphica or Atlascopco loadsi, however a large caudal (tail) vertebra, approximately 7cm long, does appear to be from a medium sized theropod dinosaur. There are a few other bones that could belong to theropod dinosaurs, but we must wait until they have been prepared before further identification can be made. The size of the theropod caudal vertebra agrees nicely with the size of the manual claw that was discovered in 2014, and could indicate that there is more of the skeleton of this particular dinosaur to be recovered.
We hope to bring you more information on the latest discoveries as they are revealed in months to come.
In the meantime, check out our blog for images of some of the fossil bones that were recovered during the 2017 field season, as well as lots of smiles on the happy faces of the volunteers who found the bones.