Undergrad researcher unearths dino discovery

August 22, 2014
Greg Funston

Greg Funston has been dreaming about dinosaurs for a long time.

Originally from Yellowknife, N.W.T., Funston was first captivated by dinosaurs when he was three. This early passion brought him to a science camp in Drumheller, Alta., where he encountered first-hand the richness of Alberta's paleontological history and its opportunities for discovery. Now an alumnus of the University of Alberta's elite paleontology program, he has already been published in the Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences for research he did as an with the U of A's renowned dino hunter, Phil Currie.

Funston's research started in a required course for honours paleontology students, BIOL 499. "I was very excited to be doing research, especially with someone like Dr. Currie," says Funston. "Phil is a great mentor: he really gives you free rein over your own project, but he has a wealth of knowledge to deal with any challenges you might face."

After an initial meeting with Currie to discuss potential research options, Funston took the lead on a project appealing to his interests—a mysteriously toothless dinosaur known as Chirostenotes.

"Toothlessness is a rare phenomenon in dinosaurs," he explains. "It actually occurs in just three groups: ornithomimids, oviraptorosaurs—my study group—and birds." Even without a complete skull or skeleton of Chirostenotes, Funston was able to shed new light on the dinosaur's diet and eating habits.

"We'd assumed that they were doing something odd after losing their teeth, and most people just guessed that they were herbivores," notes Funston. The paper, however, suggests that Chirostenotes was likely an omnivore, eating both plants and small animals. This discovery will shed light on evolutionary relationships among oviraptorosaurs, which descended from meat-eating .

These days Funston is continuing his research with Currie at the U of A, now as a master's student. His words of advice for anyone interested in undergraduate research? Get involved as soon as you can.

"I really enjoyed the whole process. Research isn't for everyone, but it's what I'd like to do in the future, and finally getting a shot made me certain of that."

Explore further: Newly discovered raptor lived alongside T. rex

More information: Gregory F. Funston and Philip J. Currie. "A previously undescribed caenagnathid mandible from the late Campanian of Alberta, and insights into the diet of Chirostenotes pergracilis (Dinosauria: Oviraptorosauria)." Can. J. Earth Sci., February 2014, v. 51:156-165, DOI: 10.1139/cjes-2013-0186

Related Stories

Newly discovered raptor lived alongside T. rex

December 19, 2013

(Phys.org) —It's been a big year for the University of Alberta's Phil Currie, even by his standards as one of the world's top dinosaur hunters. He's lead instructor on Dino 101. This summer, he had a museum named after ...

Near-complete dinosaur baby a rare find

December 2, 2013

Philip Currie has made some spectacular and rare fossil finds while dino hunting in Alberta's badlands, so when he says a discovery ranks among the best of his career, it's significant.

Edmonton city site was dinosaur dining room

June 29, 2007

A dinosaur bone bed in southwest Edmonton that served as a feeding area for the direct ancestor of Tyrannosaurus rex has revealed that two dinosaurs, thought to have lived in different eras, actually lived at the same time.

New horned dinosaur reveals unique wing-shaped headgear

June 18, 2014

Scientists have named a new species of horned dinosaur (ceratopsian) based on fossils collected from Montana in the United States and Alberta, Canada. Mercuriceratops (mer-cure-E-sare-ah-tops) gemini was approximately 6 meters ...

Mysterious feathered dinosaur was agile flyer

October 23, 2012

(Phys.org)—In 2003, a mysterious and surprising dinosaur was discovered that possessed not only wings on its arms but also long feathers on each leg forming a "hind wing." This was a completely new and unexpected body plan ...

Recommended for you

Egypt archaeologists discover mummy in Luxor

December 9, 2017

Egyptian archaeologists have discovered a mummy in one of two previously unexplored tombs across the Nile from the southern city of Luxor, the antiquities ministry said Saturday.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.