Our ScientistsFrançois Therrien, Ph.D.

Curator of Dinosaur Palaeoecology

François Therrien

François Therrien studies the palaeoecology of extinct animals, which, in essence, is trying to determine what the animals did while they were alive and what the world they lived in looked like. To do so, François  uses two different approaches: 1) he studies the shape of the bones of animals in order to determine the behaviours of extinct animals (e.g., how they hunted, walked, laid their eggs) and 2) he studies the features and chemical composition of ancient soils (called paleosols) in order to reconstruct the environments and climatic conditions the animals lived in. François tries to see past the bones and rocks in order to explore dinosaurs as a single component within a complex ecosystem.

Contact Information

Toll free in Alberta:
310-0000 then (403) 823-7707

Toll free in North America
(outside Alberta):

Outside North American:

Email: francois.therrien@gov.ab.ca

Current Research

François' research projects focus on the:

  • study of the changes in dinosaur diversity and in the environmental and climatic conditions during the Late Cretaceous to determine if environmental and climate changes are responsible for the extinction of dinosaurs
  • determination of the feeding behaviours of extinct predators through the study of adaptations of lower jaws
  • reconstruction of the habitats in which dinosaurs built their nests
  • evaluation of the sense of smell in extinct predators by looking at the size of their olfactory bulbs using CT scanning technology
  • study of dinosaur locomotion using CT scanning of limb bones

Recent Publications

Therrien, F., Zelenitsky, D.K., Quinney, A., and Tanaka, K. 2015. Dinosaur trackways from the Upper Cretaceous Oldman and Dinosaur Park formations (Belly River Group) of southern Alberta, Canada, reveal novel ichnofossil preservation style. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences 52: 630–641. (Link to open access article: http://www.nrcresearchpress.com/doi/full/10.1139/cjes-2014-0168)

Gardner, J.D., Henderson, D.M., and Therrien, F. (editors). 2015. Papers Commemorating the 30th Anniversary of the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, 52 (Special Issue no. 8): i–xxxiii & 537–700.

Gardner, J.D., Henderson, D.M., and Therrien, F. 2015. Introduction to the Special Issue commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology, with a summary of the museum’s early history and its research contributions. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, 52: v–xxxiii. (Link to open access article: http://www.nrcresearchpress.com/doi/full/10.1139/cjes-2015-0059)

Hone, D., Henderson, D.M., Therrien, F., Habib, M.B. 2015. A specimen of Rhamphorhynchus with soft tissue preservation, stomach contents and a putative coprolite. PeerJ, 3: e1191; DOI 10.7717/peerj.1191. (Link to open access article: https://peerj.com/articles/1191/)

Quinney, A., Mays, C., Stilwell, J.D., Zelenitsky, D.K., and Therrien, F. 2015. The range of bioinclusions and pseudoinclusions preserved in a new Turonian (~90 Ma) amber deposit from southern Australia. PLoS ONE 10(5): e0121307. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0121307. (Link to open access article: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0121307)

Therrien, F., Zelenitsky, D.K., Tanaka, K., and Sloboda, W.J. 2014. The first hadrosaur trackway from the Upper Cretaceous (late Campanian) Oldman Formation, southeastern Alberta. In: Hadrosaurs. Edited by: D.A. Eberth and D.C. Evans. Indiana University Press, Bloomington, pp.  532–539.

Brink, K.S., Zelenitsky, D.K., Evans, D.C., Horner, J.R., and Therrien, F. 2014. Cranial morphology and variation in Hypacrosaurus stebingeri (Ornithischia: Hadrosauridae). In: Hadrosaurs. Edited by: D.A. Eberth and D.C. Evans. Indiana University Press, Bloomington, pp. 245–267.

Monger, J., Blakey, R., Eberth, D.A., Harrison, C., Colpron, M., Cordey, F., Dehler, S., Evenchick, C., Fensome, R., MacRae, A., Nelson, J., Nowlan, G., Olsen, P., Poulton, T., Price, R., Sweet, A., Therrien, F., Wielens, H., Williams, G., Yorath, C., Zelenitsky, D.K., and Zonneveld, J.-P. 2014. Pangea breaks up and mountains rise: Canada 251 to 65.5 million years ago. In: Four Billion Years and Counting: Canada’s Geological Heritage. Edited by: R. Fensome, G. Williams, A. Achab, J. Clague, D. Corrigan, J. Monger, and G. Nowlan. Canadian Federation of Earth Sciences, Nimbus Publishing, pp. 160–188.

Eberth, D.A., Evans, D.C., Brinkman, D.B., Therrien, F., Tanke, D.H., and Russell, L.S. 2013. Dinosaur biostratigraphy of the Edmonton Group (Upper Cretaceous), Alberta, Canada: evidence for climate influence. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, 50: 701–726.

Quinney, A. Therrien, F., Zelenitsky, D.K., and Eberth, D.A. 2013. Palaeoenvironmental and palaeoclimatic reconstruction of the Upper Cretaceous (Late Campanian-Early Maastrichtian) Horseshoe Canyon Formation (Alberta). Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecolology, 371: 26–44.

Zelenitsky, D.K., and Therrien, F. 2013. Dinosaur eggs. The Canadian Encyclopedia. http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/articles/dinosaur-eggs.

Therrien, F., 2012. Review of “The Other Saber-tooths: Scimitar-tooth Cats of the Western Hemisphere”. The Quarterly Review of Biology, 87: 274.

Zelenitsky, D.K., Therrien, F., Erickson, G.M., DeBuhr, C.L., Kobayashi, Y., Eberth, D.A., and Hadfield, F. 2012. Feathered non-avian dinosaurs from North America provide insight into wing origins. Science, 338: 510–514.  (Link to open access article: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/338/6106/510.abstract?sid=600d1624-47f3-446d-a1ad-59df6449eb0e)

Zelenitsky, D.K., Horner, J.R., and Therrien, F. 2012. Dinosaur eggs. In: The Complete Dinosaur, 2nd edition. Edited by: M. Brett-Surman, T.J. Holtz, Jr., and J. Farlow. Indiana University Press, Bloomington, pp. 611–620.

Brink, K.S., Zelenitsky, D.K., Evans, D.C., Therrien, F., and Horner, J.R. 2011. A sub-adult skull of Hypacrosaurus stebingeri (Ornithischia: Hadrosauridae): anatomy and comparison. Historical Biology, 23: 63–72.

Candeiro, C.R.A., Fanti, F., Therrien, F., and Lamanna, M.C. 2011. Continental fossil vertebrates from the mid-Cretaceous (Albian-Cenomanian) Alcântara Formation, Brazil, and their relationship with contemporaneous faunas from North Africa. Journal of African Earth Sciences, 60: 79–92.

Ramezani, J., Hoke, G.D., Fastovsky, D.E., Bowring, S.A., Therrien, F., Dworkin, S.I., Atchley, S.C., and Nordt, L.C. 2011. High-precision U-Pb zircon geochronology of the Late Triassic Chinle Formation, Petrified Forest National Park (Arizona, USA): temporal constraints on the early evolution of dinosaurs. Geological Society of America Bulletin, 123: 2142–2159.

Tanaka, K., Zelenitsky, D.K., Williamson, T., Weil, A., and Therrien, F. 2011. Fossil eggshells from the Upper Cretaceous (Campanian) Fruitland Formation, New Mexico. Historical Biology, 23: 41-55.

Zelenitsky, D.K., Therrien, F., Ridgely, R., McGee, A.R., and Witmer, L.M. 2011. Evolution of olfaction in theropod dinosaurs and birds. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 278: 3625–3634. (Link to open access article: http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/278/1725/3625)

Csiki, Z., Grigorescu, D., Codrea, V., and Therrien, F. 2010. Taphonomic modes in the Maastrichtian continental deposits of the Haţeg Basin, Romania – paleoecological and paleobiological inferences. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 293: 375–390.

Therrien, F., Zelenitsky, D.K., and Weishampel, D.B. 2009. Palaeoenvironmental reconstruction of the Late Cretaceous Sânpetru Formation (Haţeg Basin, Romania) using paleosols and implications for the “disappearance” of dinosaurs. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 272: 37–52.

Eberth, D.A., Kobayashi, Y., Lee, Y.-N., Mateus, O., Therrien, F., Zelenitsky, D.K., and Norell, M.A. 2009. Assignment of Yamaceratops dorngobiensis and associated redbeds at Shine Us Khudag (Eastern Gobi, Dorngobi Province, Mongolia) to the redescribed Javkhlant Formation (Upper Cretaceous). Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 29: 295–302.

Zelenitsky, D.K., Therrien, F., and Kobayashi, Y. 2009. Olfactory acuity in theropods: palaeobiological and evolutionary implications. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 276: 667–673. (Link to open access article: http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/276/1657/667)

Ali, F., Zelenitsky, D.K., Therrien, F., and Weishampel, D.B. 2008. Homology of the "ethmoid complex" of tyrannosaurids and its implication for the reconstruction of the olfactory apparatus of non-avian theropods. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 28: 123–133.

Zelenitsky, D.K., and Therrien, F. 2008. Unique maniraptoran egg clutch from the Upper Cretaceous Two Medicine Formation of Montana reveals theropod nesting behaviour. Palaeontology, 51: 1253–1259. (Link to open access article: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1475-4983.2008.00815.x/full)

Zelenitsky, D.K., and Therrien, F. 2008. Phylogenetic analysis of reproductive traits of maniraptoran theropods and its implications for egg parataxonomy. Palaeontology, 51: 807–816. (Link to open access article: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1475-4983.2008.00770.x/full)

Zelenitsky, D.K., Therrien, F., Joyce, W.G., and Brinkman, D. 2008. First fossil gravid turtle provides insight into the evolution of reproductive traits in turtles. Biology Letters, 4: 715–718. (Link to open access article: http://rsbl.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/4/6/715)

Therrien, F., Eberth, D.A., Braman, D.R., and Zelenitsky, D.K. 2007. High-resolution organic carbon isotope record across the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary in south-central Alberta: implications for the post-impact recovery rate of terrestrial ecosystems and use of d13C as a boundary marker. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences 44: 529-542.

Therrien, F., and Henderson, D.M. 2007. My theropod is bigger than yours... or not: estimating body size from skull length in theropods. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 27: 108-115.

Fanti, F., and Therrien, F. 2007. Theropod tooth assemblages from the Late Cretaceous Maevarano Formation and the possible presence of dromaeosaurids in Madagascar. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 52: 155-166.

Therrien, F. 2006. Depositional environments and fluvial system changes in the dinosaur-bearing Sânpetru Formation (Late Cretaceous, Southern Carpathians, Romania): post-orogenic sedimentation in an active extensional basin. Sedimentary Geology 192: 183-205.

Lipka, T.R., Therrien, F., Weishampel, D.B., Jamniczky, H., Joyce, W., Colbert, M., and Brinkman, D.B. 2006. A new turtle from the Arundel Clay facies (Potomac Formation, Early Cretaceous) of Maryland, U.S.A. Journal of Vertebrate Palaeontology 26: 300-307.

Therrien, F. 2005. Feeding behaviour and bite force of sabertoothed predators. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 145: 393-426.

Therrien, F. 2005. Mandibular force profiles of extant carnivorans and implications for the feeding behaviour of extinct predators. The Journal of Zoology (London) 267: 249-270.

Therrien, F., Henderson, D.M., and Ruff, C.B. 2005. Bite me: Biomechanical models of theropod mandibles and implications for feeding behavior. In K. Carpenter (ed.), The Carnivorous Dinosaurs, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, pp. 179-237.

Therrien, F. 2005. Palaeoenvironments of the latest Cretaceous (Maastrichtian) dinosaurs of Romania: insights from fluvial deposits and paleosols of the Transylvanian and Haţeg basins. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 218: 15-56.

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