(Contributed photo by Richard Seimens).

Small but vicious Alberta dinosaur to be discussed in Red Deer

Renowned paleontologist Philip Currie to speak at RDC on March 29

Little-known facts about a dog-sized dinosaur, considered the “quintessential” Alberta raptor, will be shared when renowned paleontologist Philip Currie speaks in Red Deer.

The former curator at Drumheller’s Royal Tyrrell Museum, who’s now teaches at the University of Alberta, will be discussing the Saurornitholestes langstoni on Thursday, March 29, at the Margaret Parsons Theatre at Red Deer College.

The dinosaur that stood no taller than a German Shepherd was thought to have possessed a keen sense of smell, quickness and agility, possibly as a pack hunter.

Like other theropods, Saurornitholestes had a long, curving, blade-like claw on the second toe. This species was more long-legged and lightly built than Velociraptors, but also had large, fang-like teeth in the front of the jaws.

An intact skeleton of the wiry carnivore, excavated in 2014 in Alberta’s Dinosaur Provincial Park by University of Alberta paleontologists, is the only complete specimen of Saurornitholestes known in the world.

These 75-million-year-old bones are now on loan to Japan’s National Museum of Science and Technology, where a team of U of A scientists are continuing to study the skeleton to try to unearth more secrets.

Currie, with a PhD from McGill University, is one of the foremost dinosaur experts in the world, having published more than 225 scientific articles about the growth and variation of extinct reptiles, their anatomy, origins and relationships, and in peer-reviewed journals. He also helped develop an online course, Dino 101, through the U of A, that more than 100,000 students world-wide have taken since 2013.

The scientist most recently received the Romer-Simpson Medal, the highest award issued by the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology for “outstanding scholarly excellence.”

Currie’s 7:30 p.m. talk in Red Deer this month is hosted by the Red Deer River Naturalists. Admission is free, but tickets are required and can be picked up from the Kerry Wood Nature Centre.

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