Stories of discovery: the Savage Robber

Editor’s note: We continue our series highlighting significant fossil discoveries found by members of the public. Remember, if you find a fossil, follow these instructions.

1995: Atrociraptor marshalli (TMP 1995.166.0001)

The holotype of Atrociraptor marshalli. Source: Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology.

Wayne Marshall has been scouring the badlands for fossils in southern Alberta for more than 30 years. First, he discovered petrified wood while working as a surveyor on road construction projects. His passion for palaeontology led to a position in the Royal Tyrrell Museum’s mounting shop from 1983-85, helping construct the soon-to-open exhibits.

Wayne Marshall preparing a mounted cast. Source: Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology.

Over the years, when Marshall came across rare or interesting fossils, he reported them to Museum staff. He found a portion of premaxilla (snout) from a small theropod dinosaur in 1995. He realized that the fossils were eroding from a hard cap-rock partially exposed on the hillside. Marshall collected the loose fossil fragments and delivered them to Dr. Philip Currie at the Royal Tyrrell Museum just a few kilometres away.

An illustration of Atrociraptor marshalli by Raph Herrera Lomotan. Source: Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology.

The remaining material was later collected and prepared. Dr. Currie realized it was a new dinosaur species, and in 2004 named it Atrociraptor marshalli, which means, “Wayne Marshall’s savage robber.” The new dinosaur was distinct among dromaeosaurs (‘raptors’) for having a shorter, deeper face. It is most closely related to Deinonychus and Bambiraptor.

Wayne Marshall showing Museum staff fossils in the badlands. Source: Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology.

Since that time, Marshall has guided Museum staff to many important finds, including several ornithomimids in the Drumheller area, and large theropod fossils near Dinosaur Provincial Park.

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