Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Enchodus rears it's head!

Over the past few weeks, Jacob and I were out doing some scouting and excavation in the lower Niobrara chalk in western Kansas. With the recent drought in the area, not much erosion has happened and so specimens were a bit tough to come by. Though we were blessed with instructions to just record fish localities, secure them, and move on, sometimes the fish are just too good to pass up.

Enchodus palatine fang eroding out
One of our long term goals is to expand our 3 dimensional fish reproductions from Kansas. We've completed 4 so far (Xiphactinus, Ichthyodectes, Saurodon, Pachyrhizodus) and we're working on Megalocoelacanthus as our 5th. Enchodus has always been on our wish list (one of the most common fish in the WIS, and those fangs... people love pointy parts), however the large specimens of Enchodus petrosus are very rare, especially anything resembling a complete skeleton and not just isolated palatine bones with fangs.
RMDRC 13-001 fanf after prep
Jacob struck first with a very large Enchodus fang protruding from the grey chalk between MU 7 and 8 He took down the overburden and exposed a sizable disarticulated skull with pectoral fins and vertebrae. We prepared a good portion of it in the lab and have decided that this specimen is where we will mold the majority of the individual elements from.
RMDRC 13-001 digsite

A few days later I was working an outcrop slightly lower (just above MU 6) and was shocked to find an articulated skull weathering out of some seriously soft chalk. I hoped it was attached to the rest of an Enchodus.
RMDRC 13-005 as found

Originally we were going to "Sternberg" the specimen (pouring plaster directly over the exposed bones to stabilize everything in the jacket) assuming that there was more resent at the site. Unfortunately, sometimes all you get is a head. In this case a giant one (lower jaw 25cm long) indicating an overall length of about 1.25m. This will be the basis for our overall reconstruction.
RMDRC 13-005, bottom side prepared

We're hoping for the prototype to be completed and ready for SVP at the end of October. Fingers crossed.