Virginia Living Museum

The last stop on my swing through eastern Virginia was the Virginia Living Museum in Newport News, which had requested help identifying some of the vertebrate fossil remains donated to them over the years. The highlight of their collection is the complete walrus skull shown above, which was pulled up from the seafloor by a scalloper off the coast of Virginia. VLM actually have quite a few walrus remains (mostly tusks) in their collection.

Some other goodies:

Isolated periotics from a small odontocete, apparently both from the same taxon (they have periotics from several different species):

Tympanic bullae from a right whale (left) and a balaenopterid (right):

A possible tooth from the giant beaver, Castoroides ohioensis (I’m not as sure about this one):

A mystery fossil; feel free to speculate. I’m leaning toward a seal humerus, but I’m far from convinced:

Tim and I are going on a road-trip vacation for the next week, but I will be posting updates from the natural history parts of our trip.

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5 Responses to Virginia Living Museum

  1. Doug says:

    Wow, that walrus skull is pretty impressive. I wish I could offer my opinion on that mystery fossil, but without seeing it myself i can be of no help.

  2. Beautiful walrus skull! I’m assuming thats a Pleistocene Odobenus.

    As far as the mystery fossil – I have no problem identifying it as a phocid humerus – the capitulum is certainly set off far from the shaft, but now that I look in Kohno and Ray (2008), that appears to be pretty typical. Anyway, my specialty is in otariids and odobenids… we don’t exactly have a lot of phocid fossils on the west coast.

    What else do you suspect?

  3. Alton Dooley says:

    The only other thing I was considering was turtle, but I thought seal was much more likely; I’ve been traveling so much I haven’t had a chance to check references.

    Seals aren’t especially common on the east coast, either; we have a total of 3 bones from Carmel Church, for example. There are tons of them in Peru.

    I assume the walrus is Pleistocene, since Odobenus has been described from the VA Pleistocene. This specimen came up from the seafloor, though, so the age isn’t 100% certain.

  4. Brian Beatty says:

    I agree about the mystery specimen being a phocid humerus, more specifically the proximal portion of a right humerus. The deltoid crest should be lateral and oriented slightly anteriorly, as I recall, making it a right.

    The ?Castoroides-like specimen is a bit more dubious, especially being so short and with such distinctive grooves. Castoroides incisors usually have longitudinal grooves that are convex, not concave, in shape. I wonder if it could be a portion of a fish skull element? I seem to recall seeing things like this in Hogtown Group fossils in Gainesville, FL before, and in the Zooarchaeology collection of fish elements years ago…

    Yeah, the east coast surely is lacking in pinnipeds, although I always loved the thought that one could find fossil walruses in FL!

  5. Doug says:

    These Pleistocene walrus skulls seem to be the best pinniped fossils from over there: There’s one at the Aurora Fossil Museum in North Caorlina has one and so does the Maine State Museum.

    We got plenty of fossil pinnipeds over her on e west coast, the best known of which is (undoubtedly) Allodemus. The roster also includes the the wierdest pinniped i know of, Gomphotaria: http://www.nhm.org/research/publications/Contributions_in_Science/CS426.pdf If you loved the thought of finding walruses in Florida, how about finding them in the desert? Iperial walrus (Valenictus imperialensis) have been found in southern California’s Anza Borrego Desert.

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