I’ve been remiss in writing new posts the last few weeks. After a brief vacation, I’ve been overwhelmed with administrative duties and haven’t had a lot of time for anything else. But Ray and Martha have been very active in the lab, and have made a lot of progress on one of the jackets containing part of “Popeye’s” skull. Almost immediately after opening the jacket is was clear that a substantial portion of the bone it contained was from the lower jaw. We’ve been able to reassemble those pieces into a nice looking dentary.
The left dentary was the only one in this jacket (we have another jacket that I believe contains the right dentary). It’s shown in lateral view above. Unfortunately, both ends are missing, but we still have roughly 90% of the bone. It’s a pretty massive dentary, with relatively large foramina (openings for nerves and blood vessels) running along the top edges.
Here’s the same bone from above (dorsal view):
There’s a strong twist at the anterior end (on the left), which is a bit more pronounced than I would expect in this type of whale. The jaw is also remarkably straight, and has a slight S-curve in this view. If this is a real feature that would be very unusual, but I suspect that it’s due to post-mortem deformation; the jaw was crushed when it was buried. Hopefully the right dentary will give us a better idea of the original shape of the jaw.
We’re still working on fragments of the cranium from this jacket, and soon I should be able to post pictures of some of those as well.