greygirlbeast (greygirlbeast) wrote,

Ballad of a Flat-Wristed Sea Lizard

My Xmas present from Spooky, which may be here by the New Year – my fault, for dithering – is a gorgeous cast of a Platecarpus tympaniticus skull:

Here's a closeup of the muzzle:

The actual specimen, I have learned, is now on display in the new dinosaur hall at the LA Museum of Natural History. The specimen was discovered in 1967 by a Kansas woman named Mary Bonner, and for years was on display at the "Keystone Gallery" in Logan County, Kansas (26 mi. south of Oakley or 18 mi. north of Scott City on US 83). There it was known as "Old Yeller," after the yellow Niobrara Chalk in which it was found. This cast of the skull was made sometime in the 1990s, before the specimens as transferred to the LAMNH. It measures 26"x14 inches, which makes it a rather large adult Platecarpus (which was a medium-sized mosasaur genus). The "Old Yeller" specimen (I'm going to try to get better locality info, and a catalog number, from LAMNH) is one of the most complete Platecarpus specimens known.

Here's a photo of the complete skeleton when it still hung in the Keystone Gallery:

While in Alabama and Colorado, I collected, prepared, and studied specimens of Platecarpus ("flat wrist"), primarily specimens from Kansas and Wyoming. As noted in the Wikipedia article, one thing my resulted yielded was the discovery that the three of four recognized species – P. tympanitcus, P. ictericus, and P. coryphaeus – were in fact a single species, P. tympaniticus (the name with priority, i.e., the first published). I'd already determined that P. intermedius was actually an immature Globidens alabamensis (another mosasaur). Which left only the poorly understood species Platecarpus planifrons and P. somenensis. The former has since been removed from Platecarpus and placed in another genera.

The last work I did on Platecarpus was in 2001, when I was a guest on the American Museum of Natural History in New York and spent two days examining and photographing the holotype of "P. planifrons."

Also, Spooky's giving me this nifty Platecarpus pin (via Etsy, and this seller):

So, yes. A very Platecarpus Xmas. And soon the skull of an old, familiar friend will be hanging over my office doorway.

Aunt Beast
Tags: 1986, 2001, 2002, loss, mosasaurs, paleontology, platecarpus, taxonomy, then vs. now

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