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

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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

Fossil Friday – Annularia

 I’ve spent the last week trying to catch up on administrative work while pouring over all the data we gathered during our “Mastodons of Unusual Size” road trip. But after several weeks of almost all mastodons it gives me the chance to feature a different organism for Fossil Friday.  Continue reading

Mastodons of Unusual Size – Denver Museum of Nature and Science 


On Thursday Brett, Max, and I made our sixth stop on the “Mastodons of Unusual Size” tour, at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Continue reading

Fossil Friday – mastodon astragalus


I’m still on the experiment.com-funded Mastodons of Unusual Size tour, and will be doing an additional post on that tomorrow. My inability to type and drive at the same time means I can only do a short Fossil Friday post. Continue reading

Mastodons of Unusual Size – University of Wyoming

Yesterday we made our fifth stop on the Mastodons of Unusual Size tour, the University of Wyoming Geological Museum in Laramie. Mastodons get increasingly scarce as you move west, but we had hopes that something would turn up in the excellent fossil mammal collections at the Geological Museum. Continue reading

Mastodons of Unusual Size – Joseph Moore Museum


This morning Brett, Max, and I visited the next museum on the “Mastodons of Unusual Size” tour, the Joseph Moore Museum at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana. Continue reading