Sinistra’s ribs

It has been awhile since I’ve talked about “Sinistra”, the specimen of the baleen whale Diorocetus hiatus from Carmel Church. The lack of posts does not indicate a lack of interest or activity in this whale, however. “Sinistra” is apparently the most complete specimen of Diorocetus ever found, and I’ve been gradually photographing and documenting each preserved bone in the skeleton; 45 of them, not counting the skull. 

Today, with help from Zack (an intern from the Piedmont Governor’s School), we laid out “Sinistra’s” ribs. Based on the preserved parts of the vertebral column I thought that “Sinistra” had 11 thoracic vertebrae, and as expected it appears we have 11 pairs of ribs – a nice confirmation of my vertebral count! It seems that one rib (I think the 5th on the right side) is missing entirely. The other 21 ribs are remarkably well preserved; almost all of them are complete from one end to the other. This is amazing when you consider that “Sinistra” was disarticulated, with the ribs scattered across 5 different jackets, and that we had to break at least six of the ribs in the field to complete the jackets. That’s probably in part due to the dense, heavy rib structure in this whale.

These ribs will be out in the lab for a bit while I measure and photograph them, and while Zack does a project on the rather heavy concentration of shark bites on these bones. If you’re in Martinsville you’ll be able to see them through the exhibit lab windows at least through the holidays.

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