Things have started to pick up in the lab a bit. Besides the addition of Ray, volunteer Kathy Fell has also been expanding her preparation abilities. She’s been working on the baleen whale dentary (lower jaw) we recovered in our March 2012 excavation at Carmel Church, shown above as it appeared in the ground. There’s still a lot of work to do, but here’s her progress so far:
This is the right dentary, so you’re seeing it in lateral view, with anterior to the right. The back 1/3 to 1/2 is missing; it’s possible that it’s still in the ground, since this bone came from the edge of our March 2012 pit. The bone is shattered, but that’s typical for Carmel Church, and we should be able to put it back together pretty well.
Possibly more interesting is another bone that was stuck to the other side of this dentary:
Here’s the other side (hard to tell with the lighting, but this side is concave while in the upper photo it’s convex):
This seems to be a partial mandible from a small odontocete (toothed whale). The preservation is odd, because the jaw seems to have been broken transversely, with only the lower half preserved. Transverse breaks are pretty common in whale jaws, but having a transverse break across both dentaries with the mandibular symphysis intact is a bit strange, especially since the top half of the jaw wasn’t preserved. One thing that probably helped it survive is that the symphysis (the left side of the bone in the image) appears to be completely fused.
This is also interesting in that toothed whales are fairly rare at Carmel Church, at least when compared to the ridiculously common baleen whales found there. In fact, we only have one other definite mandible from a small odontocete, which was found in 2010 and by chance is currently in the lab being prepared. I suspect that this is from Xiphiacetus, the most common small odontocete at Carmel Church. Here are the two specimens side-by-side:
We’ll know more when the 2010 specimen is completely prepared (we can’t see the ventral side right now), but this is a pretty remarkable match. Incidentally, in 2011 we also recovered two tiny odontocete tympanic bullae just a few centimeters from the 2012 mandible; I have no idea yet if they have anything to do with one another.
If you haven’t already done so, consider making a donation to our Petridish campaign to fund our next Carmel Church excavation. We might be able to find the back half of the baleen whale dentary!