Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Four and Counting!

Things have gotten weird in the last couple of weeks. Jerry Dodson is starting to work on another big block, Block 1, where we have identified two skull parts exposed on the surface. They won't be full skulls, of course, since they are broken where the block broke. So here is Jerry's current project. We've run out of table space so it's on a wheeled hydraulic lift table.

I don't know if these holes in the bones are semi-circular canals for ear balance, but they certainly could be.

Here's the block after a large section came off. There are skull bones at the upper end and lower end of the removed block.

I continue to work on good 'ol block 2 which I've been slaving away for two+ years.  I started chasing a small bone cluster on the surface of the break plane between block 1 and block 2 - hah!

I know the bone to the right is part of a centrum. The one in the middle was interesting, and I thought the small bone to the upper right was part of a rib - wrong! There actually were  four bones on this cluster - 2 centrums and two others. The 'others' are the interesting ones. So here I have cut away around the outside of the ones somewhat, digging my normal trench to remove them. They actually went quite deep and when I tried to knock them off....
 This is what happened! The end of the entire block broke off, exposing a beautiful Nautiloid!  It's really quite big.

And it's a species we haven't seen before. The sutures look like a nautiloid, but the sides of the animal don't have the typical indented whorls. Instead, they resemble some of the more globular ammonites. It is a lower priority (and shells are difficult to prepare) but it's still going to be interesting. A new species, perhaps?

So here's the cluster of bones. I think one is a section of mandible while the other one is a thin part of a skull, maybe around the orbit. Full identification will have to wait until they are fully prepped. 

Last of all, when the block broke off it exposed yet another bone clustered with the ones I originally started with. However, preparing this bone revealed a wonderful surprise - it's ANOTHER BRAINCASE!!!! This makes 4 total now - so we have at least four animals!!!!

And to be even more interesting it's about 30% LARGER than the largest one we had (which was the previous largest one) - so we have a growth sequence of four individuals all different sizes! It will take another 3-4 weeks to get this one out as most of it is still in the main block buried deeply. However it's really worth pursuing. 
 Here it is back on the block, with the other full braincase for comparison.

Like I said, it's been a crazy couple of weeks. 
Sincerely, Greg Carr

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