Thursday, April 5, 2012

Visit to the Otago Museum

I know there are some readers of this blog who have patiently waited and waited for pictures of beautiful Oligocene marine mammal fossils - to you I say, sorry for the delay. I'm going to try and get several blog posts written this weekend so I can post them incrementally. This one will mostly be in 'slideshow' format.

I've been fairly busy since I got here, and I've bordered on stress trying to figure out 1) where all the eomysticetid specimens are in collections, 2) which earbones belong to which skull or skeleton (just taking a while to become familiarized with the specimen numbers), 3) trying to make some sense out of the earbones and trying to group them based on consistently seen characteristics (and I have made a bit of headway), and 4) just generally trying to figure out how many taxa I am dealing with and thus 5) how many manuscripts/dissertation chapters this will end up making. Since I've finally made some headway and started describing the first material (a partial skull with earbones and a very partial postcranial skeleton), I've relaxed a bit and can allocate time to other activities. That being said, I'm also locked out of the building for four days due to construction/maintenance activities in the building. Fortunately, this will give me an opportunity to divert some time to my Pelagiarctos study with Morgan Churchill. Also, in other news - I finally finished up my massive manuscript describing an entire marine mammal assemblage from a locality in the Purisima Formation, which resulted in being just over 200 double spaced pages long with 45 figures; Felix Marx graciously offered to take a look, as did Ewan Fordyce. I have a bit of work left cleaning up some figures, but it should be submittable soon.
A spectacularly beautiful dalpiazinid dolphin! Look at those damn teeth! There's another specimen with even crazier incisors, and a full dentition, and jaw.

An archaic edentulous mysticete which may fall somewhere on the cetacean family tree near eomysticetids. This specimen will be part of my dissertation.

The holotype skeleton of the giant moonfish Megalampris keyesi. This set of slabs is seriously about 15 feet long and about 8 feet wide. Described by Gottfried et al. 2006.

A disarticulated skeleton of a squalodelphinid dolphin. My labmate and office mate Yoshi Tanaka is studying squalodelphinids for his dissertation (although their skulls are in better shape than in this specimen).
A partial skeleton of the giant shark Carcharocles angustidens, described by Gottfried and Fordyce (2001). Believe it or not, this specimen was found above the dolphin and moonfish skeletons in the same quarry; the shark was found first, and underneath they ran into dolphin bones; below that, they started seeing fish bones (from what turned out to be a truly monstrous fish). They called the shark Carcharodon angustidens instead, as Mike Gottfried is in the Carcharodon camp; that's fine, we all get along pretty well. Mike will be visiting University of Otago for paleo research in May, which will be a great opportunity to catch up.
Detail of the big, beautiful teeth of Carcharocles angustidens.

Beautiful jaw fragment of the undescribed squalodelphinid from the block photographed above.

The skull of the "Shag Point Plesiosaur", now known as Kaiwhekea. That's pronounced "Ky-feh-key-uh"; one Maori pronunciation is "wh" as an 'f'.

The holotype skeleton of Kaiwhekea; yes folks, that's all one gigantic concretion that is ~20 feet long. It took a crew of 3-6 to collect those blocks over the course of a month (each day).

More photos will be coming soon!


Mere said...

I like how you call him "my" Ewan Fordyce. :-)

Robert Boessenecker said...

Well, everyone should own one, I mean. In all seriousness, I had originally typed out "my adviser" and accidentally left "my" in there when I changed it. Thanks for pointing that out!