North Carolina museum visit

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I should apologize to my regular readers for the lack of posts over the last few months. The simple fact is that I’ve been so busy with administrative duties, outreach programs, and exhibit planning that I haven’t been doing any research worth writing about. We’ve also had contractors doing major work in the lab, which has brought us to a virtual standstill on preparation work (although that’s about to change).

At any rate, today I visited the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences (NCSM) with Ray and Roanoke College student Matt Corbicz to present a lecture on “Sinistra”, run various errands, and for Matt to work on a project. This finally gave me a chance to do a few hours of research.

We don’t have a good modern fish collection at VMNH, so I took several Carmel Church fish with me to attempt an identification. With the help of NCSM curator Vince Schneider we narrowed the identifications down to the family Sciaenidae, but were unable to match our specimens definitively to either sciaenid already known from Carmel Church, the red drum Sciaenops (modern skull at top, from NCSM), or the black drum Pogonias (below, also from NCSM).

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I also had a chance to look at a few fossil whales. This mysticete basioccipital came from the Miocene Pungo River Formation:

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The basioccipital was associated with this Diorocetus-like tympanic bulla:

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This doesn’t look like much, but it’s pretty significant. The Pungo River Formation correlates to the bottom part of the Calvert Formation in Virginia and Maryland, and that part of the Calvert has essentially no mysticetes at all (the Carmel Church Bonebed is from the top of the Calvert). That makes this specimen a pretty interesting data point for mysticetes along the mid-Atlantic coast.

I’d like to thank Vince Schneider, Lisa Gatans, and Lindsay Zanno for making our visit enjoyable and productive.

In a few days Brett and I are heading to New Hampshire for next week’s GSA northeast section meeting, so I should have a lot more to write about next week.

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