Sunday, October 29, 2023

Fossils at Airports

This year's annual Society of Vertebrate Paleontology meeting was held in Cincinnati, and I was quite pleased to be greeted in Concourse B of Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport by a mastodon skeleton.

This seemed like a good omen.

This is hardly the only airport to have fossils. Sometimes they are part of the building stone; at Minneapolis–St. Paul International Airport, for example, you can hardly walk around without seeing fossils in the (non-local) flooring stone. Most of the fossils are bits and pieces of shells, but there are some nice coiled cephalopods, and if you have time they're certainly worth a pause. (It would be fun to do a thorough photographic inventory, but I imagine it would probably have to be explained so as not to appear nefarious.)

Two cephalopods with part of my foot for scale.

A generous assortment of large fossil debris.

In other cases the fossils are on display, as at Cincinnati. One of my favorite examples is the Brachiosaurus at Chicago O'Hare. I've become fairly familiar with this mount over the years since I first saw it on the way to Mongolia, as O'Hare has been practically a required stop on my trips east from MSP.

On this visit in 2019 the brachiosaur was decked out in Chicago Bears livery for the NFL's centenary.

Back to Cincinnati. (Well, not literally; the airport is actually across the Ohio River in Kentucky.) In the mastodon photo above another skeleton can be seen in the distance. I'd been in a hurry when I arrived, so I hadn't explored farther, but made it a point to do so when I departed. It turned out there were five more mounts in the concourse, which makes me wonder if there were any in Concourse A. The animals chosen for exhibit are all typical Ice Age fauna of the area (in fact, all have been found at Big Bone Lick not too far down the river). One notable absence, if only by name, was the giant beaver Castoroides ohioensis, so I kind of hope there were more in Concourse A.

Cervalces scotti, the "stag-moose"; think of a moose with fancier antlers.

A dire wolf pursues an extinct peccary.

A giant ground sloth; the mounts are convenient to walk around, particularly nice for appreciating the unusual anatomy of this animal.

A Smilodon smiling.

Sunday, October 8, 2023

Compact Thescelosaurus Year Eight

It's that time again, for National Fossil Day (October 11 this year), a new sheet for The Compact Thescelosaurus, and the annual summary of what was added to the spreadsheet in the past 12 months. In addition to National Fossil Day events this month, the latest issue of Park Paleontology News is up for viewing. Also in breaking NPS paleontology news: additional dating of the fossil human tracks at White Sands National Park, and a previously overlooked record of a tyrannosaur tooth at Yellowstone National Park. [Update, 2023/10/10: And a tritylodont bonebed at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area was just announced; goes well with this new paper on a massive track block from the recreation area, too.]

Here at Equatorial Minnesota, we've passed 400 entries this year. Later this year, December 15 will mark 10 years of posting. (Also, anyone know why this nautiloid post would have spiked in interest?) The Compact Thescelosaurus has been around for 8 of those years, and it's traditional to add a new sheet. For this year, first I considered all of Pseudosuchia (except for the aetosaurs, covered already), but decided against it due to the number of species. I then looked at doing just Mesozoic pseudosuchians before being discouraged by whatever it is Thalattosuchia has been doing over the past 200 years. So, for now it's just Triassic forms, with the intent to expand over time.

Prestosuchus threatening an Eoraptor in the "Ultimate Dinosaurs" exhibition at the Science Museum of Minnesota, May 2014.