Meet the Albertavenator curriei, a feathered, toothy dinosaur that once roamed a lush coastal plain in what is now Alberta’s Drumheller Valley, a species that now carries 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 Research chair and has worked for decades on predatory dinosaurs.
“This is a great honour … it’s in fact an Alberta dinosaur and it’s a type of dinosaur that I’ve worked on over the years,” Currie told CBC News. “It’s extra meaningful.”
It’s well-known that this type of dinosaur — a troodontid — is one of Currie’s favourites, said David Evans, author of the paper naming the species published in the Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences. Because fossils and fragments of this type of dinosaur are so rare, Evans said he couldn’t miss the chance to honour Currie.
“Given what Phil has done for Alberta paleontology and the contributions he’s made to the study of these feathered dinosaurs, it seemed only appropriate to name it after him,” said Evans, who is the Temerty Chair in Vertebrate Paleontology at the Royal Ontario Museum.
Currie acknowledges his obsession.
“There’s a lot of mystery surrounding troodontids; that’s why I love them so much,” Currie told CBC News.
‘Other than the name, of course, it also associates my name with Alberta, which is a great thing.’
– Philip Currie, paleontologist
Imagine a feathered dinosaur about the size of a small adult, with huge eyes that could likely see in the dark.
A close relative of the velociraptor, it had sharp, serrated teeth, suggesting that it ate meat, though it may have also added a bit of vegetation to its diet. It had sharp claws on its feet and was one of the fastest dinosaurs.
Add the huge relative brain size — Evans refers to them as the “brainiest” of all dinosaurs — the semi-opposable fingers on their wings and a long tail, and you have a puzzling and exceptional prehistoric animal.
Reclassifying an old dino
Albertavenator curriei — meaning “Currie’s Alberta hunter” — lived in a swampy environment similar to that of today’s southern Louisiana.
The remains of this dinosaur — only small fragments of skull — were found in the 1990s near the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, when they were believed to belong to…