There was a lot of excitement today, when Matt Fair and Brett Crawford from Research Casting International arrived in Martinsville to install a cast skeleton of Pteranodon. Pteranodon is a late Cretaceous pterosaur (winged reptile) from the marine deposits in the midwest, particularly Kansas. It’s thought to have been a fish-eater, possibly pelican-like in its habits. (Darren Naish over at Tetrapod Zoology frequently posts on pterosaurs.)
RCI’s Pteranodon cast arrives mostly assembled, with only the wings detached, and it doesn’t weigh much, so it goes up rather quickly. Even so, it needs several people to wrestle it around while avoiding damage to the delicate finger that supported the wing membrane in the living animal.
Matt and Brett were finished in Martinsville before lunch, and we then headed to Carmel Church for the second installation. A few months ago I mentioned that we were going to be installing an exhibit about the Carmel Church Quarry at Caroline County’s new visitors’ center on I-95. That exhibit is about to become a reality, after a couple of years of work. The centerpiece is a cast of Eobalaenoptera (the same specimen that’s on exhibit in Martinsville), which was installed by RCI this evening. The skeleton is shipped in 7 segments (this is the anterior half of the vertebral column):
After the skeleton is hoisted into position, the lifting chains are replaced with cables, the protective foam is removed from the ribs, and the flippers are attached:
Unlike most whale skeletons, this Eobalaenoptera cast is mounted as if it’s diving toward the seafloor. The original reason for this was to fit the 30-foot skeleton into a very small space, but it results in a very dramatic and dynamic pose that I haven’t seen in other exhibits.
The windows behind the whale face Virginia Route 207, giving travelers an impressive view from the highway: