Dan Aykroyd taking a big interest in Canuck dinosaurs – but not of the film variety

Steve Mertl
National Affairs Contributor
Daily Brew

Canadian actor Dan Aykroyd is used to being nominated for awards or perhaps handing them out to his fellow thespians.

But the Ottawa-born Ghostbuster and Blues Brother was in his hometown Wednesday with wife, Donna Dixon Aykroyd, to recognize a leader in another field that's become his passion, paleontology.

Aykroyd is awarding the Royal Canadian Geographical Society's gold medal to Philip Currie, the Edmonton-based dinosaur hunter, for his work on the group behaviour and migration patterns of dinosaurs, the Globe and Mail reported.

"We are very moved by the brilliance and the passion of this man," Dixon Aykroyd told the Globe.

Dixon Aykroyd said she and the couple's children took part on an archeological dig with Currie three years ago at Grande Prairie, the northern Alberta city better known as a hub for the oil sands industry.

"There's like a football field of a mass grave of all these bones in the depths of the soil," said told the Globe. "We were pulling out toe bones, vertebrae, femur bones. It was really, so incredibly exciting."

[ Related: Retired Alberta farmer discovers 80-million-year-old plesiosaur fossil ]

Since then, the Aykroyds have used their star power to support creation of the new Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum in Grande Prairie.

It will be the province's second major museum dedicated to the prehistoric beasts. Southern Alberta is home to the world-renowned Royal Tyrrell Museum.

Currie, 63, developed the theory that meat-eating Tyrannosaurs were cunning enough to hunt in packs, the Globe said. His current research includes examining how migration patterns may have led to the striking similarities that paleontologists have discovered between dinosaurs found in Mongolia and Canada.

"There is so much going on with dinosaurs right now, worldwide," Currie said. "We really are at a golden age of dinosaur research."

Currie told the Ottawa Citizen researchers have only scratched the surface when it comes to discovering dinosaur remains.

"We in fact have so few dinosaurs in relation to what must have existed," Currie said, adding that about a thousand dinosaur species have been identified, perhaps one per cent of the total.

"Sounds like a lot on the face of it, but then you've got 4,000 living species of mammals (today), 10,000 species of living birds ... 6,000 species of living 'herps,' or reptiles and amphibians. And that's all at one time."

[ Related: Dinosaur boom linked to rise of Rocky Mountains ]

Aykroyd told the Globe he hoped Currie's work will inspire young people to become involved in exploration and archeological research.

The Currie museum, scheduled to open in 2014, has received funding from the province, he said, but so far no federal money. But he added that Ottawa has a better track record than the U.S government in supporting museums and other things that introduce the young to history.

"It marks the progress of our planet, and it makes us think about where we're going now, [and] how the planet has evolved," Aykroyd said. "And it gives children an interest that is not of today, that is not of electronica, that is beyond a video game."