One of the nice things about the discovery last year of the baby whale “Buttercup” is that we were able to determine that it belonged to the species Diorocetus hiatus. We also have another example of Diorocetus, “Sinistra“, which is an adult specimen. Even though we only have a small part of “Buttercup’s”, this raises an intriguing possibility; maybe we can reconstruct the missing portion of the skull using the nearly complete skull of “Sinistra” as a model.
This isn’t quite as straightforward as it sounds. The first problem is that “Buttercup’s” skull is in six pieces (above). Because “Buttercup” was a young animal, the sutures were apparently still somewhat cartilaginous when the whale died and the fragments don’t have a lot of surfaces for gluing. Since I didn’t really want to slop glue all over the specimen, we decided to try a different route. Ray made individual molds of each “Buttercup” fragment:
Then we made resin casts of each fragment:
Finally we glued the casts together, using gap-filling glue to fill in the areas that were presumably cartilaginous in the living animal. (Actually we made two copies, and painted the one shown below to resemble the original bone):
So we now have a reconstruction of the parts of “Buttercup” that are actually preserved. In part 2, we’ll start to look at the next step: reconstructing the missing parts of the skull.