In and Around Marseille

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This is a combination post for sightseeing, birding, and exhibits. I was too busy finishing up that service project when I wasn’t in collections.

The only sightseeing trip I got to take was when my hosts tried to take me swimming in the Mediterranean my first day there, but a storm rolled in and we had to leave. But I did get to see some gorgeous landscapes in the process.

The tail end of Marseille and the prison from the Count of Monte Cristo are in the far-off background. In spite of swimming not being allowed there, quite a few people were swimming in that little inlet in teh center of the photograph.

The tail end of Marseille and the prison from the Count of Monte Cristo are in the far-off background. In spite of swimming not being allowed there, quite a few people were swimming in that little inlet in the center of the photograph.

Vertebrate fossils (I can't remember what kind) were found when crews were digging this old tunnel

Vertebrate fossils (I can’t remember what kind) were found when crews were digging this old tunnel

I didn’t get any good bird pictures, but I managed to get one lifer without really trying. As soon as we got to my host’s house, a little Crested Tit hopped into a nearby tree and started chittering while foraging for seeds (EDIT: I also saw Pallid Swifts and Grey Partridges). There were probably Mediterranean Gulls flying around where we tried to go swimming, which would have been lifers for me, but they were too far off in the distance for me to tell them apart from common Yellow-legged Gulls. I’d like to come back here someday and go to a nearby natural park a former UI postdoc from France recommended to see what else I can find.

I also didn’t have time to walk through the exhibits of the Marseille museum. Which was a bummer because what I saw on the way to/from my host’s office looked pretty awesome. They even had a taxidermied Mediterranean Monk Seal, which is one of the most critically endangered mammal species. They also had the best, most dynamic mosasaur mount I’ve ever seen.

Notice how the end of its tail is downturned? That's a recent finding. Mosasaurs had previously been reconstructed with paddle tails (imagine a moray eel's shape), but someone looked at the shape of the vertebrae and realized their natural position was to be ever so slightly angled. After that, at least one specimen was found with the outline of an upper fin preserved. It's nowhere near as pronounced as in derived icthyosaurs, though--more like the primitive icthyosaurs, which means it was probably only just starting to evolve.

Notice how the very end of its tail is downturned? That’s a recent finding. Mosasaurs had previously been reconstructed with paddle tails (imagine a moray eel’s shape), but someone looked at the shape of the vertebrae and realized their natural position was to be ever so slightly angled. After that, at least one specimen was found with the outline of an upper fin preserved. It’s nowhere near as pronounced as in derived icthyosaurs, though–more like the primitive icthyosaurs, which means it was probably only just starting to evolve in at least some species.

I have two more posts to make for my Western Europe trip, but they won’t go up until the second week of August. I’m leaving for Natural Trap Cave in a few hours and will be there for a week!

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