Administrative duties, combined with multiple approaching grant deadlines and conferences, have slowed my writing considerably. My posting rate should pick up later this month with the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology conference, followed in November by the Geological Society of America meeting. But today I did manage to find a couple of hours to spend in the lab, with good results.
On the left is a small toothed whale atlas vertebra (the first neck vertebra). Tim found this tiny vertebra, apparently from an adult, in the weathered part of the Buttercup Pit during our last excavation. I spent a few hours today with this bone under a microscope, removing the hard crust that covers weathered material from Carmel Church. This is the smallest definite cetacean atlas we’ve ever found at the site.
In contrast, on the right is the other extreme; the largest atlas vertebra we’ve collected at Carmel Church. This comes from “Caroline“, the holotype specimen of Eobalaenoptera harrisoni. As it happens, this was the very first bone we found from any associated skeleton there, in 1990. We have collected atlases from at least seven different whale species, including the two shown here, although so far only three of them have been identified to genus. In the case of the small odontocete species shown here, all we’ve found is a handful of vertebrae, representing at least two (but possibly as many as four) individuals.