Day 2 at the Smithsonian


Today was my second day at the Smithsonian’s Museum Support Center (MSC). It is hard to express just how vast the Smithsonian’s holdings are, even in natural history alone (remember that the natural history museum is just one branch of the Smithsonian). Storage cases seem to go on forever:


For my visit, I was primarily interested in baleen whales from the Calvert and Choptank formations, and especially four taxa: Pelocetus, Thinocetus, Halicetus, and Parietobalaena (baleen whales were really diverse in the Miocene!). Yesterday I looked at Pelocetus and Thinocetus, so I picked up the other two today. Here’s the holotype skull of Parietobalaena palmeri, the most common mysticete in the Calvert Formation:


As it turns out, the type Parietobalaena is a young juvenile. Here’s another specimen, from an adult:


Of course, with only two days available I didn’t get to look at nearly enough stuff. Pelocetus, Thinocetus, and Halicetus all have extensive postcranial remains that I didn’t have time to examine. I did find a few minutes to look at this skull from the Pliocene of North Carolina:


If you’ve been following the blog over the last year, you might recognize this as a right whale skull (Family Balaenidae). It’s about the same size as Balaenula, but it appears to represent a different genus altogether. Something for my next visit!

I’d like to again thank Dave Bohaska for making my visit such a success.

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2 Responses to Day 2 at the Smithsonian

  1. Bobby says:

    Holy cow, I never realized the type of Parietobalaena was so tiny! It’s very cute. That’s one of the issues with some older works – the lack of a scale bar in the plates allows you to forget about the scale (at least if you don’t read the measurement table…).

    That’s a great balaenid skull! I may have just dug up a balaenid braincase about a month ago from the Purisima, FYI (haven’t blogged about it yet).

    Good luck at the smithsonian! I hope (expect) to see more cetophilic eye candy on here soon.

  2. altondooley says:

    Bobby, let me just say you’re going to love Halicetus…

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