We had a much lighter session today, with only two talks and the poster session. Blaine Schubert, Steven Wallace and Leopoldo Soibelzon discussed features that can be used to identify tremarctine bears such as the modern spectacled bear; this was similar to a talk they presented at the Gray Fossil Site symposium in April. In the final talk, Jim Knight, Jason Osborne, and Bob Weems discussed morphologic differences in the giant Eocene sea snakes Palaeophis and Pterosphenus. The exact sizes of these snakes is not known since no complete skeleton has been found, but all indications are that they reached large (30-foot-plus) sizes. The model above, from the Florida Museum of Natural History, depicts Pterosphenus trying to escape the archaeocete whale Zygorhiza. One interesting point in Knight et al.’s talk is that these snakes probably were deep-bodied (compressed side-to-side), so the flat belly on the model shown above is probably in error.
There were four posters presentations after the talks were completed. Gary Stringer, David Cincimurri, and Jim Knight reported on fish otoliths from the Paleocene Jamestown Site in South Carolina. Matthew Gibson and Steven Wallace continued the tradition of tapir studies from Gray Fossil Site with a morphometric study of isolated tapir teeth. Joel Alvin Christine and Steven Wallace also conducted a morphometric study, but this one was on Pleistocene mustelids (the family that includes carnivores such as weasels). Geb Bennett studied collecting bias in vertebrate fossils collected by harvester ants. No, really! Harvester ants will coat the surface of their anthills with small pebbles, and if they live in the right areas, small fossil bones. Geb showed that the ants do such a good job of selecting certain sizes that it’s easier to collect those sizes from the anthill than to screen wash the deposit itself.
At the end of the meeting the Florida Museum of Natural History volunteered to host the fourth SeAVP meeting in Gainesville, FL next year (dates still to be determined). I’d like to thank Jim Knight, Steve Fields, and the South Carolina State Museum for hosting a very successful 2009 meeting.