Garber Facility

After giving a lecture at the Caroline County Visitor Center last night, I drove to Suitland, Maryland. This morning I was joined by Brian Beatty from NYCOM, and we headed over to the Smithsonian’s Garber Facility, where the whales (among many other things) are stored. Both the modern and fossil whales are stored in two warehouses, and the number of specimens is stunning. One of the most impressive is an enormous blue whale. Here’s the skull (with Brian for scale):

The lower jaws:

Here’s a right whale skull (the arched rostrum is typical of the right whales):

Charlie Potter, John Ososky, and Erich Fitzgerald from the Smithsonian were also there, helping us find specimens and pointing us to things we weren’t aware of (that’s Erich holding the whale, with Charlie in the background):

The whale Erich’s holding is a pygmy right whale, Caperea marginataCaperea is the smallest living baleen whale, and is a very strange animal that is rather dramatically different from any other known baleen whale.

Brian is a crazy man who runs around sticking his fingers into the back end of any whale skull he sees, no matter how juicy they are. He claims that there’s a scientific reason for this, but there are limits to what I’ll do for science.

We were actually there to work on the Carmel Church baleen whale. One goal was to compare it to the type material of Diorocetus hiatus. Here is our skull, mostly complete:

And here’s the type Diorocetus hiatus:

One feature of the Carmel Church specimen that I had believed was fairly unique was the expansion of the tip of the lower jaw…

…but it turns out that Diorocetus has the same feature, strengthening our initial assignment of the Carmel Church whale to this species.

It turns out that Diorocetus also has the dense ribs that are found in the Carmel Church specimen:

We spent a productive eight hours at the Garber Facility. Tomorrow Brian heads back to New York, while I’ll drive to Williamsburg to look at more whales.

This entry was posted in "Sinistra", Carmel Church mysticetes, Carmel Church Quarry, Chesapeake Group, Museums and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Garber Facility

  1. Brian Beatty says:

    For the record, I was checking whether this mysticete specimen had a structure in its skull, known as the tentorium cerebelli, as an ossifed (bony) structure. In most mammals, the tentorium cerebelli is a soft tissue that supports and separates parts of the brain. It is yet unclear what exactly causes this to become bone in many whales and dolphins, but it seems to be fairly common – but not found at all in mysticetes (baleen whales)… Yet. Hence, why I am so keen on sticking my finger in the back of any whale skull, it’s cheaper and faster than an Xray.
    “Life is like a greasy whale skull; you never know what you’re gonna get”

  2. Whenever I get to work on west coast Pliocene balaenopterids… this is a place I need to visit. Jeez – this place is more enticing than Disneyland for folks like us…

    Is that B. musculus cranium the same figured in Miller’s (can’t remember the year) short paper?

    Damn nice job putting the carmel church skull back together – looks like a pretty significant specimen and that all the hard work paid off.

  3. Doug says:

    That blue whale skull insane. I have sen many, but never like that. What I’d give to spend just five minutes in there…

    Anyway, glad you were able to make headway on your whale. Where was the type of Diorocetus found?

  4. Alton Dooley says:

    The type Diorocetus is from the Calvert Formation in Maryland, but I can’t remember the exact locality off the top of my head (I’m still on the road, and didn’t bring the description with me). I seem to recall it being from a little lower in the Calvert than Carmel Church.

    Getting your picture taken next to the blue whale is practically a rite of passage; I have pictures of both me and Tim next to it. The photo is even more impressive if you know that Brian is well over 6 feet tall. The skull is actually about 2/3 the length of the entire skeleton of Eobalaenoptera, which is the largest whale known from the Calvert.

  5. Doug says:

    Calvert formation in Maryland, that’s good enough for now. Just curious is all.

    But perhaps that could be on my “things to do before I die” list, is get my picture taken with the Smithsonian’s blue whale skull. Yeah, it’s always a good idea to have something in the shot for scale. My dad is 6 foot even which provided a good idea of the size of the Wankel T. rex:

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