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.
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.
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.
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.
Brian Engh walked us through the process of creating the stunning mural seen in the Valley of the Mastodons exhibit.
After a brief intermission, Michael Pasenko gave a talk comparing the scaphoid (one of the bones in the wrist) across extinct elephants.
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.
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!
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!)
Jeremy Green gave an impassioned talk on comparing dental microwear on mastodons from the northern and southern regions of the eastern US.
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!
After the talks all the science people got back to doing science stuff. Except Eric. The poor guy had to do time sheets:
Of course knowing several of the scientists (including the one hosting the conference) meant i got to see loads of science in action:
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.
Tune in to the final entry for the epic conclusion to The Valley of the Mastodons!
Till next time!