Thursday, June 22, 2017

Once more, into the Unknown

Finding new types of bones is getting very rare. After all, I have excavated over 250 bones by now, and these animals don't have that many types of bones. They do have a lot of bones, but most are ribs, gastralia, centrums and neural arches (backbones to us laypeople). So finding a new type of bone is quite excited and unexpected.

I came up with one such bone a couple of weeks ago. What kind could it be? Let's list out the types of bones we haven't found yet: toes, claws, mandible.....

I think it's part of a mandible. Specifically, the back part, where the mandible pivots on the quadrate. It is definitely broken and the broken end seems to be rounded I was hoping for any break to be a suture, but apparently not this time.

So here is the bone in question. It looks pretty robust in this view. The bulge in the middle might be the pivot point for the quadrate, perhaps.

Here is the opposite side. It is moderately robust, but has a very thin end that curves over in a very interesting way. It is not real evident in this picture, but the inner surface has some very deep grooves of unknown purpose.

And here it is from the side.  You can see how the intact end curves around in a thin bowl-like structure. This would be good for hooking muscles to, I guess.

So here is a drawing of where I think it fits as a mandible. The thin curved end would be where the muscles to open the jaw would attach, and the bulge would be associated with the quadrate pivot point. The front end is broken off. 
And there is still more. There is a quadrate right next to this bone, and a couple of thin bones that are NOT ribs too. Maybe more of the jaw structure? I can certainly hope so. Time will tell.

Speaking of time, I now understand that it will take another year or more until the classification paper is published. I guess this animal is more complicated, more important, and more difficult to classify than we thought! So we must continue to be patient.
Sincerely, Greg Carr

Sunday, May 14, 2017

One Melange, please, with a side of Skull

Things have been really slow this month. I have a piece of matrix that is very loaded with bones and shells. They are so close together that I can't seem to get anything out!

 By my count I have 4 simple centrums, 2 more centrums with attached neural processes, one big gastralia, three ribs (one going right under a nice chambered nautilus), one big 'slipper snail(?)", and a part of a big chambered nautilus. Several more unidentified fragments added into the mix (melange in French). And just uncovered this past Thursday is something that looks like part of the roof of a skull.

Here's a nice centrum + attached neural process, three centrums immediately around it, all touching it!

And here is the skull piece with a proximal end fragment of a rib lying on it and a gastralia alongside it. It doesn't look like much now, but it should be good when I get it out. That's assuming, of course, that it isn't lying on something else. Right now I'm not taking bets either way. There must be an end to this madness!!!

Sincerely, Greg Carr

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Ptergyoid, my Ptergyoid

Ptergyoids are really gnarly bones, part of the skull making up the hard palate, stretching from the front part of the snout back to the brain case. We already had one, found unrecognized and scanned as two separate bones. I probably broke it handling it and thought they were two bones. Luckily Eric Meitz in Alaska recognized that the two bones were actually two parts of the same bone.

So I have just found another one - entire and unbroken. And even better than the last one, all the sharp little teeth in the palate were unbroken. They are very cute, and so small that I decided that I would not completely remove all the matrix around them. Instead, I left some matrix to provide support and revealed just the side. Since these teeth are only a few mm long, they could not have been used to break shells or bones. They would have been just fine to grasp squirming worms, fish or tentacles, however.

This ptergyoid is about 2.5cm (1 inch) larger than the other. Perfectly understandable, given we have so many animals here.

Here is a view of the ventral side (underside) which would have been the under side of the upper hard palate. The front would be on the left, the right extends out to the braincase.

Here are the teeth, enlarged. The ruler markings are millimeters. 

Here is the upper side of the same bone. It sure is gnarly, twisted and beautiful! Check out the slot in the middle - it is very deep, going about 2/3rds of the way through bone. What could possible be the use of this? I certainly don't know.

And check out this beautiful ptergyoid from a mosasaur! Reeeely big teeth!

Sincerely, Greg Carr

Monday, March 13, 2017

Time once again for Girl Scout "Thin...Bones?"

It seems like I have had a run of thin, delicate bones. Perhaps it's just the preservation in this part of the block, or perhaps they were all sorted here hydraulically. I also have a very long gastralia about ready to come out of the same location, almost 8 inches (200mm) long and 3/16" (3-4mm) wide. In any event, I have four bones that have really pushed my expertise in preparing very thin bones.
In the upper left, we have a quadrate. This bone is a link between the mandible (lower jaw) and the skull proper. The jaw articulates on the lower end of the quadrate. Then below it, lower left, is a possible fragment of skull, perhaps back by the quadrate. In the center we have most of the interclavicle (breastbone on humans). Finally, on the right is what I think is a thoracic rib (from the throat area). It has very unusual grooves in it. 

 All four of these have very thin sections, 1-2 mm thick. I have to be very patient and use lots of glue to keep them together. Above is and end-on view of the thinner sections.

 The quadrate is very unusual too. So far I have 3 entire quadrates and 1 or 2 partials. All 3 of the intact bones are very different in proportion from each other. There is a very robust bone (white 3D printed copy below). A second is almost the same proportions but has a much thinner structure, having only about 1/3 of the bone mass in life.  This new one is also different: it is smaller in one direction, but not so in the others. It is like it has been squished flatter. I don't think this is an artifact of preservation - the bone structure does not appear to be crushed. Here they are for comparison in the similar view:

 And here they are showing the significant different direction - only half the thickness.
So I really don't know what's going on - sexual dimorphism? Age differences? 
Anyway, they are soon to go up to Alaska. 
Sincerely, Greg Carr

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Crocodile in the room

Something has been bugging me for quite a while about these bones - the gastralia in particular. We have two main sizes of gastroliths - some are about 1/8 inch diameter, some are about 1/4 inch diameter. A few are larger and smaller - I have one piece, length unknown (as it's not prepared yet) that appears to be about 3/8 inch diameter - if it's a gastralia. The smallest ones are about 1/16 inch in diameter - thickness of a toothpick. Here is a picture of the longest piece of large gastralia I have found, just uncovered today. The gastralia is the vertical bone across the center. It is about 1/4 inch in diameter (6mm), 165 mm long and had a curvature of 11mm. If we make the assumption that this bone is not too greatly distorted, it may reflect the diameter of the belly of the beast. By standard calculations a chord of a circle with these dimensions will have a diameter of about 630 mm, or almost exactly 2 foot across!  So these bigger beasties start rivaling existing crocodiles, larger than Komodo dragons. Unfortunately I cannot easily find the typical diameter of today's large reptiles, so I can't draw accurate comparisons.
Sincerely, Greg Carr

Monday, March 6, 2017

Two very interesting bones, and some so-so

Time keeps ticking away in the ol' quarry, and I keep taking out bones. I've gone back to block 2, the one the skull came out of, having mostly disposed of block 3. Block 3 is down to no visible bones so I thought I'd change. Block 2 still has over 30 bones showing on the surface, enough for a year's work or more.

I have sent off about 15 bones to Alaska, a whole mix. Two in the last shipment, and another currently here in Oregon, are worth mentioning. As 'the first shall be last', I'm commenting on the latest bone. It's an interclavicle (sternum or breastbone to us laymen). This is the first sternum we have found! These bones are "T" shaped, although one side of the top of the tee is broken off. The bone grain clearly shows the bone curve, and the center is very symmetrical and even has a great ridge running down the center. The bone is about 145 mm long, and the fin is very thin - about 2 mm thick at the end. And the bone was broken in many places with missing parts. So with many hours of work it is now close to what is was 230 million years ago.
Outside view .
 End view
 Inside view
We also have a nice limb bone. It is very solid, but the end was broken off before burial. So I think it is a good candidate for sectioning and a bone structure study. 

Now here is the most important news - we have found a osteoderm - a skin armor plate! It is nice shape, great rough surfaces, pits on the surface and everything you expect in this type of bone. And the rest of the story - no thalattosaurs have ever been found with osteoderms!!! This means one of two things: 1) We have the first thalattosaur with Osteoderms - or - 2) We have another species of Triassic Reptile in this mix of bones !!!  Either way, this is really great! 

The inside of the bone - rather smooth (at least in comparison to the other side). 

 The exterior side of the bone - rough and pitted.

 The very convoluted, very Rugose edge.
Sincerely, Greg Carr

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Brains, Master ... Brains!

This post is about all our braincases. Braincases have to be the most complicated 'single' bones we have found - they have very complex shapes. And we have lots of them - 8 of them, complete or in parts! Considering that no other Thalattosaur braincases have been found / or are inaccessible, I'd say that is really crazy, even for Bernie!

So overall we have 8 braincases or parts of braincases. Six contain enough of the structure for us to be sure they are unique. Two are fragments that apparently don't fit on any of the other larger parts, so I'm confident that they represent unique individuals as well. Given that we also have bones from a vey small individual and a bone from a very large individual, this brings us up to a total of 10 individuals in this find!

Here are pictures of the braincases I have copies of. Two of the original braincases were sent to Alaska before I got a chance to scan them, so I don't have the files to print 3D copies. The two fragments are at the lower left. And the grey one on the lower right is the latest one that I've just finished preparing.

 The 'braincases' actually don't enclose the whole brain - only part of it. The rest nestles up against the roof of the skull and between the eyes. So remember - when you are ever attacked by a Komodo Dragon or Thalattosaur, a sharp stick sideways through the eye, brain, and out the other eye is the way to kill them!
Here is a short video about preparing the braincase. Sincerely, Greg Carr

Here a couple of highlight pictures to show where braincases fit into the skulls. The backbones attach to the skull at the Occipital Condyle, with the hole for the spinal cord just above. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A box of bones off to Alaska - and yet another Braincase

Work at the prep lab at OMSI continued this fall. I was teaching a lot, so I could only work at OMSI one day a week. I began to take the prep work 'home' to finish up the bones. In November I was lucky enough to get a lightly-used PaloTools #1 air scribe for a good discount from someone selling it on Ebay. Tools from PaleoTools almost never come up on Ebay - everyone keeps using them, I guess.
I have also gone back into the inventory at the OMSI display case to ship a set of neural arches up to Alaska. They generally have small delicate psrts to them if they weren't broken during fossilization. Some of them I had to finish up with the PaleoTool#1 as it is more delicate than the ones we have at OMSI.

So here are the pictures: A set of 3 centrums plus a Radius ( so I've been told) on the block being removed.

And here it the Box 'O Bones I'll be sending to Alaska - 4 centrums, 8 neural arches, one Radius, and one more skull fragment. This skull fragment, like many others, is from around the Pineal gland / brain area. This must be a particularily tough piece of the skull as we have 4 fragments that contain that section.

Last of all, I am currently working on yet another Braincase - this makes Six (6)!
You can't really tell from the photos, but it is broken through the main body and there is only about 1/3 - 1/4 of the case left. . That's OK as it will let me prep  the brain mold internals plus all available nerve passages. The brown object is a life-size 3D print of one of the complete braincases. Very complex bones!

Sincerely, Greg Carr