Thursday, July 31, 2014

Platecarpus restoration complete! All hail Cap'n Chuck!

After 8 long years of work, our Platecarpus tympaniticus specimen RMDRC 06-009 "Cap'n Chuck" is finally finished! These last few weeks of the project had been dedicated to finishing the details of the armature as well as packing it for its trip to its new museum forever home. It seems like just yesterday when I was lifted in a freezing drizzle in a Bobcat excavator bucket one October day to investigate a lonely vertebra poking out of the side of a gully wall. Poking around revealed what looked like the rear of a skull, and we decided to come back the following spring to finish the job.
Working on turning a vertical surface into a flat surface

By the time we completed the excavation, we could walk down the debris pile to the gully bottom. We took out multiple jackets since the bone density was so high, working on them in the lab was much safer for the specimen.

Main body and skull block in the Show Prep stage
Once "show prepped" (preparing the jackets to show what is inside of them) we disassembled them and placed the bones in drawers in the Clean Room for safe keeping. There it stayed for years until a customer was found.

Coming together. The white bleached bone 4th from the left is the first bone found
Earlier this year we started restoring the bones for mounting. While we had the bones handy, Cap'n Chuck was molded so copies can be sent to other museums in the future. The mosasaur was incredibly undistorted, the ribs were even round in cross section, unlike the typical Kansas condition of being squished pancake flat.

Dillon (left) vs. Cap'n Chuck (right)

The final result is pretty spectacular. The undistorted ribs helped us get a very accurately shaped torso, with cartilage and even an interclavicle. The skull is beefy and bulldog-like, much different than the lower chalk specimens of Plesioplatecarpus planifrons.
Showing off the pterygoid teeth

Paddle and chest detail
Vertebrae are much larger and more robust than the lower chalk specimens. Surprisingly, the finished mosasaur was a bit shorter in length than we had anticipated, coming in at just over 17 feet (5m) long.

Skull detail