One of the great joys of attending paleontology meetings is the opportunity to visit the host museum (there usually is one). Doing paleontological research generally requires visiting museums to see specimens , but travel is expensive and paleontologists are never exactly inundated with cash. So we try to double things up, and often the days immediately before and after the meeting see an onslaught of researchers in the collections areas. The SeAVP conference is no exception, and this morning more than 20 people descended on the Florida Museum of Natural History.
Fortunately the collection manager, Richard Hulbert, was on hand with staff and students from the museum to help everyone find what they needed. I spent 5 hours in the collections, looking at Miocene whales and, of all things, Pleistocene fox squirrels like the one shown above. (I’m doing a project on fox squirrels, but I’m going to save the details for a future post.)
After a late lunch, Brett, Tim, and I drove to the overlook at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, just south of our hotel. This is a swampy wetland, with walking trails around the edges and a boardwalk that projects into the swamp:
We actually saw three alligators, although the other two were much smaller than this one, as well as a number of other critters. But time was short, so we quickly headed to the FLMNH exhibits building for the SeAVP check-in and opening reception. The Florida Museum has an excellent fossil hall, with lots of beautiful specimens and casts of Florida fossils, representing taxa that you don’t often get to see at other museums. For example, here’s the llama Hemiauchenia macrocephala:
After a quick tour of the exhibits we spent time catching up with friends and colleagues, including Brian Beatty, my coauthor on the “Sinistra” paper. Brian grew up in Gainesville, and told us that as a child he had collected Miocene fossils from the streams near his house. There was still a little daylight left, so we were off again, with six of us following Brian across town to a rather unlikely-looking spot:
The stream bed is made up of sediments from the Hawthorn Group, which includes a Miocene lag deposit. Even in the failing light it didn’t take long to start finding bits of bones and chondrichthyan teeth, including these ray teeth (found by Christina Byrd):