Friday Fossil Feature – The head bone’s connected to the… neck bone…

By Sarah Boessenecker (@tetrameryx)

Happy Fossil Friday!

Fossils don’t prepare themselves, and rarely come out of the ground looking the way you seem them on display in a museum. Here at the CCNHM, we are building a team of dedicated, hard-working volunteer preparators to help us clear out our backlog of fossil cetaceans!

How fossils are often found in the field - it takes skill and patience to make sense of this! Photo by S. Boessenecker

How fossils are often found in the field – it takes skill and patience to make sense of this. Photo by S. Boessenecker.

Fossil preparation takes time, skill, patience, and a certain eagerness. Cleaning off a fossil is a rewarding experience – you’re the first to see this bone surface in millions of years!

Dental picks and tooth brushes - good for more than just your teeth! Photo by S. Boessenecker.

Dental picks and tooth brushes – good for more than just your teeth! Photo by S. Boessenecker.

We currently have 2 amazing student volunteers; Jordy Taylor is a masters student in the Biology department, working with fossil sharks, and Brad Thompson is an undergrad in the geology department and museum docent.

Using brushes, dental picks, and some hard work, they’re helping us to expose whale and dolphin skulls from the Oligocene of the Charleston area.

Brad's skull - he's doing a fantastic job! Photo by S. Boessenecker.

Brad’s skull – he’s doing a fantastic job! Photo by S. Boessenecker.

Brad’s fossil is a braincase of a medium sized baleen whale from the upper Oligocene (~28 Ma) Chandler Bridge Formation of Summerville, South Carolina – a baleen whale in the family Eomysticetidae, the earliest toothless baleen whales.

Brad working on his mysticete braincase. Photo by R. Boessenecker.

Brad working on his baleen whale braincase. Photo by R. Boessenecker.

Jordy is working on several waipatiid dolphin skulls – two nearly complete skulls in sandstone blocks, and a third fragmentary skull consisting of fragments of a partial braincase.

Jordy working on her Waipatiid skull. Photo by R. Boessenecker.

Jordy working on her waipatiid skull. Photo by R. Boessenecker.

Our docents take photos and detailed notes to document their work. Photo by S. Boessenecker.

Our docents take photos and detailed notes to document their work. Photo by S. Boessenecker.

At least one of these skulls appears to represent the same species as the tusked waipatiid dolphin on display in our whale evolution gallery. Waipatiid dolphins were originally reported from the Oligocene of New Zealand – the first named species is Waipatia maerewhenua, named by R. Ewan Fordyce in 1994.

Our waipatiid dolphin already on display in the museum. Photo by S. Boessenecker.

Our waipatiid dolphin already on display in the museum. Photo by S. Boessenecker.

These dolphins were also common in the Oligocene seas near Charleston, and by preparing these skulls they are helping us to better understand their evolution. A big huge thank-you to our wonderful volunteers!

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2 comments on “Friday Fossil Feature – The head bone’s connected to the… neck bone…
  1. HELEN DUNBAR says:

    ARE THESE THE ORIGINAL BONES OR DUPLICATIONS OF ORIGINAL BONES?

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