London Collections

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I’m not sure how I did it when the last guy studying these specimens was here two weeks, but I finished looking at what I came to see on Wednesday. Maybe he had a bigger character matrix? He is specifically studying this group, after all, while I’m looking at them because they lie right outside mine (knowing where one comes from is a Good Thing).

There was Diplocynodon gracilis from France, which is a junior synonym of the D. ratelli I saw in Paris. More importantly, there was also the English species, D. hantoniensis, including the holotype (that’s the specimen that was used to name the species and which is used as a comparison against all possible specimens of this species).

Le holotype complete with its supports. Building custom foam supports for specimens helps delay degradation from gravity.

The holotype complete with its supports. Building custom foam supports for specimens helps delay degradation from gravity.

This is a proatlas—the anteriormost element of the non-cranial axial skeleton. It isn't fossilized frequently because it's pretty small. In us, it's actually fused with the skull and is part of our occipital bone.

This is a proatlas–the anteriormost element of the non-cranial axial skeleton. It isn’t fossilized frequently because it’s pretty small. In us, it’s actually fused with the skull and is part of our occipital bone.

They call this one "the frog". I'm sure you understand why.

They call this one “the frog”. I’m sure you understand why. The missing head and tail just add to the illusion.

Something weird we noticed is that the articulated vertebral column (minus the tail and the two special neck vertebrae, the atlas and axis), which was supposedly found in association and was thus strung up together on a wire, has to be more than one individual. There are nine postaxial neck vertebrae when there should only be seven. But there are no differences in fossilization between them. So what exactly kind of association were they found in? Just piled together?

 

Two too many

Two too many

And they had a random Allognathosuchus jaw, which I took some pictures of so I could add it to a morphometrics analysis I have an undergrad working on right now. The last thing I did on Wednesday was to run through the character states of an Indian gharial skull and jaws in their comparative collections. Gharials are weird.

Weird, I say.

Weird, I say.

Once I finished photographing and coding them, I took a day of rest on Thursday. Because holy crap I’m tired. Well, half-rest, anyways. I spent that morning at the Museum of London. I was very happy to take a nap that afternoon, though, because I haven’t been able to this entire trip and I’ve sorely needed it.

The next day, I went back and photographed some giant extinct gharial specimens for kicks and grins.

Big ol' fella

Big ol’ fella

We discovered that the partial articulated dorsal osteoderms and the partial dorsal vertebral column they have actually go together. That was a surprise because they were given separate specimen numbers a long time ago. The vertebrae had been lying vertebrae up because they’re more stable that way. We flipped it over to see if anything was exposed on the other side and the imprint of the osteoderms was there in the matrix with bits of their surfaces still attached in some places.

On the underside of this matrix, the vertebrae are visible

These are the imprints of the osteoderms. The vertebrae are on the underside.

The slab with the osteoderm series

The slab with the osteoderm series

These two specimens never get looked at and they aren’t in boxes. That means that they’ve built up quite a layer of dust over the years. The collections manager I was working with cleaned them up before I took the above photo. Here’s a comparison shot of before and after.

Cleaning. It's an important part of collection conservation.

Cleaning. It’s an important part of collection conservation.

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2 thoughts on “London Collections

  1. Rik

    “I cannot convey to you how truely huge this European aurochs skull is.” Why not? Perhaps a measuring device would help. Or lacking that, you could compare it to your own anatomy.

    We can see only the picture. We were not able to see it in person. We would appreciate some attempt at conveying size.

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    • Comment is on the wrong post, but–
      Have you ever read a measurement of something, then, when seeing it in person, still been taken aback by its size? That was the effect I got with this and what I was trying to describe.
      You’re right, though, that I could have used my anatomy for comparison. I tend not to think of that since there’s no “standard size” for humans. I would have liked to hold up a scale bar, but it was set too far back in the case for that to be worth anything.

      Like

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