The second annual meeting of the Southeastern Association of Vertebrate Paleontology kicked off with a reception Wednesday night, and with a full schedule of presentations on Thursday. As the meeting host I’ve been a bit overwhelmed with organization, but I’m going to try to give a brief summary of what’s been going on.
In the morning session Steve Fields spoke on the giant ground sloth Megalonyx, and specifically on the status of M. jeffersonii and M. wheatleyi. He concluded that M. wheatleyi is a junior synonym of M. jeffersonii (meaning that they’re the same species, and M. jeffersonii is the valid name). (VMNH’s M. jeffersonii reconstruction and Earlham College’s mounted skeleton shown below, with AMNH’s M. wheatleyi (M. jeffersonii) shown at the top.)
Blaine Schubert gave a history of the excavations of Pleistocene deposits in Saltville, Virginia. Fossils have been collected there since Thomas Jefferson’s time, and various museums (including VMNH) have collected there over the last 30 years, producing large numbers of mammals including the baby mammoth jaw shown here:
Blaine also showed that some of the mammoth bones at Saltville had been scavenged by at least two different carnivores, the dire wolf Canis dirus and something bigger, likely the short-faced bear Arctodus simus.
Lindsey Yann, Judith Schiebout, and Travis Atwood presented on Miocene to Pleistocene fossils from the Tunica Hills region of Louisiana, along the Mississippi River north of Baton Rouge. The rhinoceros pelvis shown below is from the Thompson Creek locality which was discovered around 2005. In the late 1990’s I spent 3 years teaching at Jackson High School, which was only a few miles from Thompson Creek; twice each day for those three years I passed within a quarter-mile of the site without anyone knowing of its existence.
Bruce MacFadden presented a paper on using rare earth element concentrations in fossil bones to determine the relative ages of the bones. This is potentially a very powerful tool in paleontology to determine if bones in a bonebed were all buried at the same time (within 30,000 years or so), which is exactly what Bruce was using the technique for (on Bison bones from Florida).
Grant Boardman and Blaine Schubert spoke about salamanders from the Gray Fossil Site in Tennessee. They have collected thousands of salamander bones from at least five different species, including Ambystoma (a modern example from the Solite Quarry shown below):
Hope Sheets and Blaine Schubert presented information on bullfrogs (and specifically bullfrog pelvises) from Gray Fossil Site, which turns out to be the most common frog at the site (the specimen below is a modern example from the Smithsonian). They suggest that this indicates that at least part of the site permanently contained water.
Patrick Hawkins and Steven Wallace presented on the unusual metatarsals (foot bones) in the tapir Tapirus polkensis from the Gray Fossil Site (below). There is some variation in how the reduced first metatarsal articulates with the other metatarsals, and it even varies from one foot to the other in the same individual.
Steven Wallace and Richard Hulbert reported on the first record of the horse Cormohipparion emsliei (a single tooth) outside of the Gulf Coastal Plain, again from the Gray Fossil Site (Cormohipparion occidentale from Ashfall State Park in Nebraska shown below):
I gave the next talk, on previously unreported material of the baleen whale Eobalaenoptera harrisoni. Eobalaenoptera was described in 2004 based on a skeleton from Carmel Church, but at the time we didn’t realize that we had a fair amount of the back of the skull:
I also referred another skull to Eobalaenoptera. This skull also comes from Bed 14 of the Calvert Formation, but it was collected from the Stratford Cliffs on the Potomac River (by Frank Whitmore and Jim Westgate, in 1973):
Alexander Hastings, Jason Bourque, and Jonathan Bloch presented information on giant Paleocene lungfishes from Colombia, from the same locality that produced the giant snake Titanoboa that was reported in the news recently. These monstrous fish and snakes (and giant freshwater turtles from the same deposits) suggest that the tropical climates in the Paleocene were very warm, even by tropical standards.
That takes us to the end of the day on Thursday. Tonight or tomorrow I’ll get a post up about Friday’s activities.