Thursday, March 6, 2014

Megalocoelacanthus revisited: New skull restoration

I know we've been over giant coelacanths from Kansas before on this blog, but they're so strange and rare that we can't get enough of them. Combine that with the fact that besides Hugo Dutel et al's paper on this specimen and this blog page, there is a dearth of information out there on the web about this critter. Consider it public education.

Megalocoelacanthus in all its glory
Megalocoelacanthus is known from just 2 specimens in Kansas: the holotype specimen that we prepared at the RMDRC that now resides at the American Museum of Natural History, and a second far less complete specimen that I discovered back in 2007, which Mike Everhart are hopefully publishing on in the near future (no pressure, Mike). The holotype was molded and cast several years ago, and we also molded the principal coronoid off of the second one to fill in a missing part for a more complete skull. Our first attempt was done without taking out any of the flattening distortion that is common in the Niobrara Chalk, and the results can be seen here. Over the past several weeks, Bryan Smalls has been attempting a second restoration attempt with guidance, assistance and not-always-helpful commentary from yours truly. The results were much improved.
total skull length is approximately 65 cm

Huge gular plates 
One thing we learned in this project was that people really need to illustrate certain parts of coelacanth anatomy better. Specifically the inside of the mouth and how the cliethra attach/fit. Also how catazygals go along the notochord. Get on it, smart people!

Almost dorsal view showing neurocranium ornamentation