Thursday, January 8, 2015

Plugging Away on lots of Skull Pieces

We now know that the block containing Bernie (and Ernie, Bernice, Bernard...) has at least three specimens of the same species of Thalattosaur. We have three brain cases of different sizes and three humerii of different sizes. So we've been focusing on removing identified skull fragments from the block as fast as possible. However, it is slow as explained below.

First of all, we have a complete brain case, now fully prepared. This is one reason it's been a while since the last post. This bone alone took 4 weeks (3 days per week) to remove from the main block and totally prepare. On the other hand, it's reeeealy nice, and the first one ever found with 3-D preservation. I am waiting to get it 3D scanned before I send it to Pat Druckenmiller at the U of Alaska. You can see all the little holes where the nerves exited the bone out into the body.

  I'm not sure what is up with the Occipital Condyle - normally these are round and solid, or arc-shaped surrounding the hole where the spinal cord exits. In our case, we appear to have two holes where the spinal cord(s) come out, one directly in the center of the round condyle and one above it.
 The next skull bone we have it a partial mandible. This appears to be the right side of the mandible, complementing the left side found many months ago. Here is the bottom:
 Here is the top, broken off where the bone stuck out of the concretion it was in. There are roots of 6 teeth at the right side of this view, though they are clearest under the microscope.
 And here it is from the cheek side (outside). It is furrowed and rugose, just like the skull is in that area.

 Here is the lingual side (inside next to tongue):
 And here it the mandible fragment prepared in June 2013 from the left tip of the mandible. Somehow these fit together, though it doesn't look like it was a mechanically strong joint.
 Here is the second-largest skull fragment found to to-date. It is about 6 inches ( 16 cm) long. I can't yet place where it is in the skull, but there appears to be numerous projections on both ends. It will be several weeks before it is removed from the block, and several more then that before it's fully prepared. I can't even tell if it's the left side of the skull we already have, or part of a second skull. It is definitely a skull fragment, I'm sure of that.

Here is yet another fragment in a block removed from the side of the block to allow access to take off the above fragment. It is only about 3 inches (7 cm) long, and busted all around. It will take a couple more days work. 

Last of all, here is a shot of two of our other volunteers, Jerry and Janet. Jerry is talking to a visitor to the lab. Janet is learning how to use the Paleotool #5 under the microscope, something she never had to do while preparing Triceratops bones. Good Luck Janet!