Today marked the first day of the 7th Annual Meeting of the Southeastern Association of Vertebrate Paleontology (SeAVP). This year’s meeting is being held at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science (MMNS) in Jackson, MS. According to the website for the state of Mississippi, the state fossil designation is unclear and says that it is “the prehistoric whale.” MMNS Curator of Paleontology George Phillips states the specimen which sparked the designation was Zygorhiza kochii. In addition to the Zygorhiza mount in the center of the above picture, the MMNS also has a mount of another species from the family Basilosauridae: Basilosaurus cetoides.
This year’s turn out of scientists to SeAVP did not disappoint for variety of topics. Out of 11 research related talks, zero overlapped in regards to study animal.
After an introduction from meeting host George Phillips, Richard Hulbert took center stage to start us off with the research talks. Richard gave a review of parahippine horses from the early Miocene of the Thomas Farm locality in Florida. The Thomas Farm locality, originally thought to have only one species of parahippine horse (Parahippus leonensis), may actually have two species. Richard also stated that the two species do not fit well within the genus Parahippus and thus proposes that the horses are part of a new genus of parahippine horses.
I was up next and presented my graduate work on understanding the developmental changes that occurred amongst a group of short-necked plesiosaurs of family Polycotylidae. I focused on the pectoral and pelvic girdle bones, making comparisons with a variety of specimens such as the 2 (adult and fetus) pictured below.
ETSU’s Steve Wallace shared his preliminary findings on the Miocene-aged red panda (Ailurus fulgens) from China and showed a video and several pictures of the super cute and cuddly red pandas from the Knoxville Zoo. Back on the science track: when Steve went to Beijing, he found some undescribed teeth in the collections and there is a possibility that they are closely related to the living A. fulgens. This research has the potential to shed light on our understanding of the red pandas of today and why the lineage was so successful (formerly widely spread – today, significantly reduced distribution) in the Miocene.
Prescott Atkinson of the Alabama Paleontological Society gave a historical description about the preservation of a highly productive fossil site at the Union Chapel Mine. The fossils found there are Carboniferous in age and produce vertebrate and invertebrate fossils (such as the insect trackways pictured below).
Lynn Harrell of the University of Alabama described some interesting feeding traces found on a Pteranodon longiceps bone from the Campanian (Late Cretaceous) of Alabama. The bone possessed feeding traces of at least two different animals: one with serrated teeth (suggested to be a Squalicorax-like shark) and one with unserrated feet (suggested to be from a saurodontid fish). Given that saurodontid fish aren’t known to be scavengers, Lynn suggested that the unserrated feeding trace may be due to an inadvertent strike by a predatory fish.
Day 1 of the SeAVP meeting ended with a social dinner with several of the meeting participants. Day 2 – field trips!