I’ve finally completed the preparation work on the small sperm whale jaw from Westmoreland County brought to the museum by John Parker last month. The jaw was crushed flat in the sediment, and required a fair amount of reassembly to restore it to three dimensions. As is clear in the image above, some pieces of the very thin bone at the back end of the jaw were missing, but considering that the bone there is only about 1 mm thick it’s preserved pretty well.
Here’s the medial side of the jaw, with the posterior end of the mandibular canal visible above the center of the scale bar:
This is a quite small sperm whale. The difference is really noticeable if it’s compared to the slightly younger Rappahannock River sperm whale:
These teeth all have large occlusion wear facets on their posterior margins, caused by rubbing against the upper teeth (and showing that this whale, in fact, had upper teeth). An additional 10 teeth were found loose in the sediment (eight of them are shown below). Almost all of these have wear facets on their anterior margins, suggesting that they were upper teeth that fell out of the skull.
All in all this is an interesting specimen that’s going to give us a lot to think about, and I’m thrilled that we were able to add it to the VMNH collection. I’d like to again thank John Parker, who collected the jaw and brought it to the museum, and William Tune, the landowner who allowed John to collect on his property and donated the specimen to VMNH.