This morning we visited the Texas Memorial Museum. Visitors are greeted at the entrance by this life-sized bronze statue of the sabre-toothed cat Smilodon. Inside the museum has a variety of exhibits on natural history, concentrating on Texas wildlife and paleontology. Some of the highlights:
The pterosaur Quetzalcoatlus northropi, the largest known flying animal of all time.
The armored aetosaur Longosuchus meadei (not a dinosaur, but a distant relative.)
Incredible examples of the Permian sea urchin Archaeocidaris.
After lunch, we returned to the technical sessions, where we listened to Scott Foss of the Bureau of Land Management talk about entelodonts.
Entelodonts were giant, omnivorous animals that lived in the Oligocene to Miocene Epochs. They were somewhat pig-like (and distantly related to pigs) but generally much larger and more powerful. Foss was especially looking at the function of the large flanges of bone found on the cheeks and lower jaws of entelodonts, as shown in the example below (from the American Museum of Natural History):
He suggested that these projections are attachments for a modified set of jaw muscles that are involved in opening the jaws extremely wide; the hippopotamus has somewhat similar modifications. Foss also singled out the entelodont reconstruction at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science (shown below) as a particularly accurate example:
Poster session 2 was this afternoon. Among the highlights:
Dana Ehert (University of Florida) and others had a poster on a spectacular specimen of the great white shark Carcharodon carcharias from Peru, which led them to conclude that great white sharks are descended from mako sharks.
Right beside Ehert was Robert Purdy from the Smithsonian Institution, using teeth from the Lee Creek Mine in North Carolina and other localities to conclude that great white sharks are not descended from mako sharks.
Gerald Bales of Western University of Health Sciences showed that titanotheres (like the one shown below from the Canadian Museum of Nature) almost certainly did not use their horns for ramming each other like bighorn sheep.
Finally, Brooke Wilborn, currently a student at University of Oklahoma and a graduate of Virginia Tech, has been studying how structural deformation of bones after they are buried can affect how those bones are interpreted and identified. Several of the specimens Brooke used in her study are VMNH specimens, collected during our Wyoming excavations over the last several years.