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):
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 marginata. Caperea 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: