After picking up the collection of Devonian fossils for transfer to VMNH, on Thursday morning Ray and I drove from Winchester to Washington to visit the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH), part of the Smithsonian Institution.
VMNH is less than 30 years old, but there was a lot of paleontology taking place in the state before that time. Most of the fossils went to museums in other parts of the country, so it’s sometimes necessary to travel to see these Virginia specimens.
As I’ve mentioned in several posts, we are in the process of making molds of a skeleton of the giant ground sloth Megalonyx from Ohio, for eventual display at VMNH. We chose Megalonyx because it’s the only ground sloth that has been reported from Virginia. However, ground sloth remains are quite rare here. They’ve only been reported from two localities, including Saltville, and even though we have numerous Saltville remains in the VMNH collection none of them are from Megalonyx. Almost all of those specimens are housed at NMNH.
Because of our tight schedule, Ray and I could only spend four hours at NMNH. Fortunately, Megalonyx is rare enough that a few hours was plenty of time to examine all the Saltville specimens. The most impressive is an femur, at top. There is also a partial humerus:
… a single thoracic vertebra:
… a fragment of the lower jaw:
… and a tooth:
There are a few other very questionable Megalonyx remains from Salville, and we also took time to examine some other Salville taxa as well as some remains of older Virginia fossils; I’ll talk more about those in a future post.
I’d like to thank Dave Bohaska from NMNH for accommodating our visit on such short notice.