Reconstructing Buttercup, Part 4


Ray has been working on-and-off for the last few months to reconstruct the skull of “Buttercup”, our juvenile Diorocetus specimen from Carmel Church. He’s made a lot of progress since my last update.

The cranium is essentially finished, except for some finishing work and adding the jugals and tympanic bullae. It’s been painted with gray primer, to make the finishing work easier. With the absence of the bullae, the periotics are still easily visible on the ventral side (they are among the parts of “Buttercup” that were actually recovered):


None of the known Diorocetus specimens have well-preserved palatines and pterygoids, so we had to use a lot of guesswork combined with a bit of inference in that area, but I’m pleased with the results.

We chose to reconstruct “Buttercup” from among our other 3 baby whales from Carmel Church (“Blossom”, “Bubbles”, and “Nemo”) for two main reasons; it’s the only one I feel confident I can assign to a particular genus (so far), and it happens to be a genus for which we have another nearly complete skull in the VMNH collection (“Sinistra“). With “Buttercup’s” cranium nearly completed, Ray took it out to the exhibit floor to do detail work using “Sinistra” as a model, which gave me a chance to photograph the two skulls next to each other for the first time:



We’ll be displaying the nearly complete model at Roanoke College this weekend during the Darwin Day festival. Ray hopes to complete the finishing work later this month, so in March we can mold and cast it. Next will come the lower jaws.

Earlier posts on reconstructing Buttercup:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

This entry was posted in "Buttercup", "Caroline", Carmel Church mysticetes, Carmel Church Quarry, Chesapeake Group, Paleontological techniques. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Reconstructing Buttercup, Part 4

  1. Doug says:

    Hard to believe you got that from such fragmentary remains! Why mold and cast it? Looks pretty whole to me.

    And a question i have been meaning to ask: what is the most complete whale you guys have found at Carmel Church? You have described so many isolated and fragmentary specimens, plus partial skeletons. So who among them reigns supreme as the most “filled out”?

  2. altondooley says:

    Remember that 90% of Buttercup is modeled, based on our estimation of what a young Diorocetus should look like. Check out the earlier posts on Buttercup to see what we actually recovered.

    We’ll mold and cast this so we can make additional copies quickly. We want to put Buttercup on exhibit in several different locations, so we need more than just the master model. We’re also considering offering copies for sale, to produce a small revenue stream for the Paleo department.

    Of the whales we’ve prepared, Sinistra (Diorocetus) probably has the most complete skull, while Caroline (Eobalaenoptera) has the most complete postcranial skeleton. Popeye (unidentified so far) is probably more complete than either of those two, but we haven’t prepared most of it.

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