Friday, March 23, 2012

Xiphactinus mounting: The beginning

One of the "nearest forest fires" in the lab lately is getting the world's largest Xiphactinus audax skeleton, RMDRC 08-004 "Mildred" prepared and mounted. These fish are traditionally done as a panel mount, since usually they are a bit flattened, especially with articulated skull material. Single-pieces are preferred since mating up seams on a big flat panel is just kinda ugly. Unfortunately, when dealing with a mount of the biggest of anything, that usually means a BIG mount.
The underside of the skull. We put a support material on this side to stabilize the bones

In this case, the panel is sized to 7 feet tall and 21 feet long, the appropriate size for an 18 1/2 foot long fish. It's going to be heavy no matter what we do, but our goal is to end up with a contraption weighing in at about half a ton or so when we're finished. One can dream.

Just a small fabrication project
We've already finished preparation of Mildred's bones, as well as the needed parts of the "donor" parts fish that would be used to fill in pieces lost to erosion or scavenging sharks. On the 3 fish, we've recovered well over a dozen shed Squalicorax falcatus teeth that were lost when the carcasses were getting scavenged.

Jacob and Lisa bolting the plywood to the frame
The next step is to position the bones on the panel and affix them to the background material. We use some cast parts, as well as the complete skull, vertebral column and tail to get an idea of the size, pose, and margins of the fish. It's always good to figure this out before we start attaching stuff with adhesive. On the downside, it doesn't look very pretty yet, but it gives us a glimpse of how the final product will look.

As of this morning, with the body outline sketched on

 There's still a lot of work to do, but we're confident we can make the deadline now.


  1. Outstanding project.... thanks for showing us step-by-step... gives one a better idea of all the work involved in this kind of mount.

  2. Hopefully I won;t be giving away too many secrets, though then again it's not like too many people out there are crazy enough to try this kind of project to begin with.