September 14 was #AskACurator Day on Twitter. You asked, and we answered. As always, if you have a question for us, ask away. Tweet us @royalsaskmuseum or message us on facebook. Every day is Ask A Curator Day.

Question: What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever done or seen as a curator with RSM?

Curator of Invertebrate Zoology, Dr. Cory Sheffield

  • I am an entomologist, so I always see cool things ;) On a recent trip to the Avonlea Badlands, we came across this nesting aggregation of the bee Anthophora occidentalis -- the females construct elaborate tunnel like structures (called turrets) in vertical banks. These are bumble bee sized solitary bees, so it was very impressive to see this.

Curator of Vertebrate Zoology, Dr. Ray Poulin

  • Several years ago I was observing a nest of burrowing owls in southern Saskatchewan when I witnessed a dramatic chase between a pronghorn (antelope) and a coyote.  The catch, it was the pronghorn doing the chasing!  This pronghorn chased, head-butted and flipped that coyote time and again until they were both disappeared over the horizon.  The lesson, don't start a fight with anyone you can't outrun.

Curator of Invertebrate Palaeontology, Dr. Ryan McKellar

  • While we were using the biomedical imaging beamline to CT scan insects in amber (at the Canadian Light Source in Saskatoon), we were able to see mummified muscle tissue preserved within some ant and wasp specimens from the Eocene. It is sort of like finding 45 million year old jerky. There is no hope for recovering DNA from this material, but it is still pretty darn cool to see this degree of preservation.

Curator of Human Ecology, Dr. Glenn Sutter

  • No surprise for the human ecologist -- I'm going with some of the brilliant and amazing people I've had a chance to meet and work with. The list includes Bill Rees, famous in some circles for inventing the ecological footprint concept, and Severn Cullis-Suzuki, known both as the daughter of David and "the girl who silenced the world" when at the age of 12 (!) she took global leaders to task during a speech at the UN. Through different projects, I arranged for Bill and Severn to give public talks in our auditorium -- both speeches were riveting, and the place was packed both times. But at the top of my list is the Saskatchewan icon and living legend known as Buffy Sainte-Marie. Still hard to believe our paths crossed the way they did around the Power of Music exhibit we developed a while back.

Curator of Aboriginal Studies, Dr. Evelyn Siegfried

  • I think that working on archaeological excavations in the meadow around the Holy Trinity Anglican Church at Stanley Mission was pretty neat. It is the oldest church in the province and still plays a huge role in the Stanley Mission Band community. There is great community interest in heritage. People were really interested in the excavations and the items that came out of them because they provided a direct linkage to the old days of trapping and fishing and what life was like for people. The church itself is located on a point on the north bank of the Churchill River and is a beautiful place to visit in this province.

 

Question: One of my students brought these wonderful photos! Can you please tell us what this is? Merci/thank-you, Mme. Bussiere and grade 3/4 science class.

Curator of Invertebrate Palaeontology, Dr. Ryan McKellar

  • This appears to be an igneous rock where some of the minerals have been selectively weathered away. It is difficult to tell with the degree of rounding on the outer surface, but I think that some of the tan-coloured bulges on the surface may have a repetitive shape that looks like feldspar crystals.

 

Question: What areas of Saskatchewan were Dimetrodons common and do we have many fossil finds of this species?

Curatorial Assistant of Vertebrate Palaeontology, Dr. Emily Bamforth

  • In Saskatchewan, we don't have the right aged rocks to find Dimetrodon fossils. Dimetrodons were from the Permian period (~ 300 to 250 million years ago), whereas the vertebrate fossils we find here are from the Late Cretaceous (~ 93 - 66 million years ago). In Canada, Dimetrodons fossils are only known from Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.

 

Question: What's your biggest item and what's the smallest in your collections?

Curatorial Assistant of Vertebrate Palaeontology, Dr. Emily Bamforth

  • The biggest specimen we have is probably Scotty the T. rex. How many other specimens required a team of Clydesdale horses, a crane and a flat-bed truck to get them to the museum?

Curator of Invertebrate Palaeontology, Dr. Ryan McKellar

  • The mymarommatid wasp from Canadian Cretaceous amber is probably the smallest specimen in our collection, this is a group that is thought to parasitize spider eggs; the scale bar is only 0.1 mm long! Also neat is that although this group is still around today, there are more fossil species known than modern species.

 

Question: Why do Northern-red bellied snakes have red bellies?

Curator of Vertebrate Zoology, Dr. Ray Poulin

  • The process of evolution suggests that obvious traits (eg: bright red belly) should have a significant purpose but that doesn’t mean that we (as scientists) necessarily know that purpose. We can make good guesses though. Bright colours on animals are usually a way to communicate to other animals: show off to a mate, scare off a predator, etc. So, why does a very tiny, forest living, ground dwelling snake need a bright red belly? Sorry, I’m just not sure!

 

Question: Have there ever been dinosaur bones found near or in Regina? Sincerely, M. Ingola’s gr. 5/6 French Immersion Class

Curator of Vertebrate Palaeontology, Tim Tokaryk

  • Unfortunately, no, there have not been any dinosaur bones found in or near Regina. This is because the exposed bedrock, the layers of rock underneath the soil, is very sparse around YQR. The few exposed areas in the Qu’Appelle Valley is at best Pleistocene in age, too "new" in age to contain dinosaurs. The closest dinosaur bearing rock can be found near Avonlea, about an hour away from Regina. However, only a few dinosaur bone fragments have been found there.