Wednesday, December 19, 2012

US Research trip part 8: USNM osteology and mammal halls

Although a marine vertebrate specialist like myself can and will stare and drool at the mounts of fossil marine birds, reptiles, and mammals in some of the Smithsonian's halls, it is healthy to occasionally venture out and look at terrestrial mammals, other birds, and even modern fish. Well, as you'll see from the following photos, I spent most of my time taking pictures of modern marine bird and mammal skeletons anyway (oops), although I promise to my former MSU cohorts that I did spend some time looking at dinosaur skeletons (gasp!) but didn't waste any memory card space on them.

The king of the jungle, er, savannah. Beautiful mount of Panthera leo, USNM mammals hall.

The real king of the savannah, Loxodonta. It's only fair that this is the centerpiece 
of the USNM rotunda.

Back to marine mammals. Skeleton of the Fransiscana/La Plata River Dolphin, Pontoporia blainvillei. My wife just calls it (and the Californian fossil Parapontoporia) "Francis". Smithsonian Osteology hall.

A menagerie of pinnipeds: a walrus skull, a Steller's sea lion skull (Eumetopias jubatus), and my favorite pinniped, the northern fur seal, Callorhinus ursinus. I love this mounted skeleton. Smithsonian Osteology hall.

Side-by-side comparison of a sea otter (Enhydra lutra) and a river otter (Lontra canadensis). I really ought to get some work done on my Pleistocene sea otter project... Smithsonian Osteology hall.

A fantastic display showing the homology of different skull bones, showing a fish, giant salamander (or is it a goliath frog?), an alligator, a bobcat, and some kind of bird. Smithsonian Osteology hall.

A member of one of my favorite groups: an alcid, the razorbill Alca torda. The closest modern relative of the extinct Great Auk, Pinguinus impennis. Smithsonian Osteology hall.

A big beautiful swordfish, Xiphias gladius. Billfish (swordfish, marlins, and sailfish) are common fossils in some sediments.

One of the most spectacular modern mammals on display at the USNM: one of the few known skeletons of the extinct Steller's sea cow, Hydrodamalis gigas. A modern Dugong dugon on the lower right for scale.

As a surrogate New Zealander, I feel obligated to include this picture of an Apteryx skeleton.

Lastly, a barndoor skate, Raja - I love mounted chondrichthyan skeletons. I like seeing mounted or preserved specimens of Raja, because I've collected numerous calcified mandibular cartilages of a Pliocene Raja from the Purisima Formation in California (see Boessenecker, 2011).

What's up next? A summary of Ewan Fordyce and Felix Marx's new paper in Proceedings B regarding the phylogenetic placement of Caperea, the Pygmy Right Whale. After, two more posts of photos from research in Charleston, South Carolina, and then we'll be back to "normal programming".

No comments: