Fossil Friday – vole tooth

img_4280The rodent family Cricetidae is a diverse group that includes animals such as muskrats, pack rats, and hamsters. That diversity is reflected in the Diamond Valley Lake deposits, which contain several different cricetids including one of the most common members of the family, the voles. Continue reading

Fossil Friday – bison jaw fragments

Some of the species in the Diamond Valley Lake deposits are common enough that it’s actually possible to get some idea of intraspecies variability, including growth-based (ontogenetic) differences. Bison are not as common at DVL as horses, but there are still enough specimens to look a bit at age profiles.  Continue reading

Fossil Friday – Carnivore traces

In any large collection of vertebrate fossils, one of the more common specimen labels  will be “unidentified bone fragment”. But even an unidentified fragment can provide useful information.  Continue reading

Fossil Friday – seven bone fragments that built a museum


Tomorrow night the Western Science Center is holding the annual Science Under the Stars fundraiser. This year is a particularly special event, because the museum is celebrating its 10th anniversary; we opened to the public for the first time on October 15, 2006. Continue reading

Fossil Friday – Xena the Mammoth’s femur

Mastodons were the most common proboscideans in Diamond Valley, but they weren’t the only ones there. Columbian mammoths (Mammuthus columbi) were also present, although in much smaller numbers. The most complete Columbian mammoth from DVL is Xena, whose partial skeleton is on permanent exhibit at the Western Science Center. Continue reading

Fossil Friday – dire wolf tooth

DSCN5601Today is National Dog Day, and while the day is primarily honoring domestic dogs (Canis familiaris, or Canis lupus familiars), it seems fitting to also recognize their wild ancestors and cousins. Continue reading

Fossil Friday – Pupilla muscorum

To human eyes, the most noticeable parts of every ecosystem are the big, charismatic organisms; there’s a reason the blog is called “Valley of the Mastodon”. But in terms of numbers of individuals and, usually, total biomass, small organisms actually dominate ecosystems. That’s often reflected in the fossil record as well. Continue reading

Fossil Friday – mastodon skull

DSCN5560Today is World Elephant Day, recognizing the conservation difficulties faced by the surviving species of elephants. Last week, with Katy Smith’s visit to WSC to examine mastodons and Bernard Means’ visit to 3D-scan some of our specimens,  as well as needing more data for the Mastodons of Unusual Size Project, we had the opportunity and motivation to open a lot of mastodon jackets that have remained unexamined for years. This confluence of events make an excellent excuse for featuring another mastodon for today’s Fossil Friday. Continue reading

Fossil Friday – associated mastodon material


This week we have two visiting researchers at Western Science Center. Dr. Katy Smith from Georgia Southern University has been measuring and photographing the proboscidean tusks in our collection, which we hope will lead to all kinds of new information about southern California mastodons and mammoths. Dr. Bernard Means from Virginia Commonwealth University’s Virtual Curation Lab has been here on a trip sponsored by Smithsonian Affiliations to make 3D scans of some of the WSC specimens (Bernard has written about his visit here). These visits have meant that we’ve been pulling out lots of specimens, many of which I had never seen before. Continue reading

Fossil Friday – Isorthoceras sociale

IMG_4043During the Mastodons of Unusual Size road trip, Brett and I made several stops to collect fossils for WSC. Since I was 20 years old, I’ve made several visits to the small, well-known (to paleontologists) roadcut in Graf, Iowa (the photo below was from a trip I made there in 2007): Continue reading