Thursday, May 1, 2014

Cap'n Chuck Rises: A Teaser

Like many places, progress on various projects here ebbs and flows. Sadly, the Pete III Daspletosaurus restoration project has been temporarily put on hold so we can address more pressing matters. In this case, it's Cap'n Chuck (RMDRC 06-009), a fairly complete and extremely well preserved Platecarpus tympaniticus specimen that I discovered one cold October day in 2006. A recap of the early part of the project can be found by clicking here. Once prepared the specimen sat in drawers in my office for years.
Squalicorax bites on the top of the skull

That's a nice set of ribs
Recently the powers that be have decided that we should restore and mold the skeleton to replace the smaller Platecarpus planifrons skeleton in our cast catalog. Comparing it to the lower chalk mosasaur, Cap'n Chuck has a nearly identical skull length, more gracile lower jaws and wider top of the skull, however its postcranial skeleton is radically different in proportions. Humerei and vertebrae are nearly twice as big. The ribs are surprisingly uncrushed, preserving their original round cross section as well as curvature. In fact they are so well preserved we can even with some degree of certainty determine which ones belong on the left or right side (nearly imossible to do on typically crushed ribs).

Lower jaws, slender and displaying symmetrical tooth replacement
Nearly complete axis showing beefiness

The differences really are amazing. A few years back, Takuya Konishi split Platecarpus planifrons into its own genus: Plesioplatecarpus. I was very skeptical of this split for a long while, but now after comparing the low chalk mosasaur against its upper chalk relative, I'm really beginning to see his point.

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