Valley of the Mastodons Day 2

Hey there every peoples!

Welcome to day 2 of the Valley of the Mastodons at the Western Science Center. Lets check out the talks! (bear with me on the pictures. It was very dark and people moved a lot)

Kathleen Springer got us started with the geology of Diamond Valley. Some may find talk about rocks boring. But Kathleen brought a real energy to her talk that could make a lecture on the drying mechanics of paint sound exciting. While mastodons are getting all the press, it is important to know the geology of the sediments they were dug out of. A great start to the talks.

Kathleen Springer

Following up was the other celebrity (beside Max) of Diamond Valley: Eric Scott. Eric gave a talk not on mastodons but the other animals found alongside them. He then compared Diamond to other regional faunas (namely Rancho Le Brea, California, and Tule Springs, Nevada). Yeah i came for prehistoric elephants, but as someone interested in ecology I was most interested in exploring the different faunal compositions.

Eric Scott

Our esteemed and wonderful host Alton Dooley gave a talk on weird size of California mastodons. I plan on doing a post on this topic as it is something i have been ruminating on for years. Maybe I’ll write it after i get back from Canada.

Alton Dooley

Kathlyn Smith, our other esteemed and wonderful host, compared tusk morphology between east coast and west mastodons. Curiously, mastodons on the west coast don’t have lower tusks. Why this is has yet to be determined.

Kathlyn Smith

Brian Engh walked us through the process of creating the stunning mural seen in the Valley of the Mastodons exhibit.

Brian Engh

After a brief intermission, Michael Pasenko gave a talk comparing the scaphoid (one of the bones in the wrist) across extinct elephants.

Michael Pasenko

Stanley Tucci- I mean Grant Zazula, enlighened us on the mastodons of the far north. Turns out they are very rare up in the Yukona and Alaska. He also discussed a newley discovered mastodon from Alaska that is by far the most complete in the north. Also it has lower tusks like its contemporaries on the east coast.

Grant Zazula

Chris Widga gave an interesting talk about the new mastodont from the Gray Fossil Site (Tennessee). First it is a mastodont, not a gomphothere. Mastodonts are much rarer than gomphotheres in the fossil record which makes this find very important. And it isn’t just a tooth, jaw, or a few bones. They have the whole skull, lower jaw, tusks, neck, and forelimbs. And there are indications the rest may be there as well. Even if it isn’t, it’s already by far the most complete mastodont in North America. And it was big too. Current size estimates have it at 13 feet at the shoulder! Geez, i might have to move to Tennessee and volunteer at the Gray Fossil Site just so i can see this thing prep out!

Chris Widga

Gregory James Smith compared tooth microwear of extinct elephants, specifically those that were contemporary. Finding out their diets could help answer how they managed to coexist. (he mentioned some pygmy mammoths from the Channel Islands. Central Coast Fossils for the win!)

Gregory James Smith

Jeremy Green gave an impassioned talk on comparing dental microwear on mastodons from the northern and southern regions of the eastern US.

Jeremy Green

Wrapping things up was Bernard Means, who talked about his projects scanning and 3d printing fossils and archaeological artifacts. Apparently he scanned and digitized the world’s oldest ham. I have enough fossil casts. I want a 3d print out of that ham!

Bernard Means

After the talks all the science people got back to doing science stuff. Except Eric. The poor guy had to do time sheets:

I was able to tailgate one of the cool, important people back to the club house!

Of course knowing several of the scientists (including the one hosting the conference) meant i got to see loads of science in action:

Kathleen taking a sample from a skull. Was it burned? Is it just a mineral deposit? That’s what she seeks to answer.

Kathleen, Chris, and Jeremy chatting it up.

Seizure Gun, do your thing!

Kathlyn looks like she’s about to drink that tooth like it’s the Holy Grail

Greg and Grant examining mastodon teeth

Brian poses mightily with his mural

Brian whips up a sketch of a wee baby mastodon

I had met Brian at WAVP in Arizona. I had told him about the book i’m trying to get going and that maybe he could do the Mesozoic section. I dunno, that mastodon mural is real kick ass. I might have to ask him if he’d be willing to do the whole thing if i can’t get Mauricio Anton.

Jeremy and Greg prepping some teeth for molding

Greg applying Blue Man Group’s pudding to a mastodon tooth

Tune in to the final entry for the epic conclusion to The Valley of the Mastodons!

Till next time!

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