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Harvard Polycotylid Revealed
Mike Everhart, in the course of his enormously productive research into the
history of collection of the creatures of the Oceans of Kansas, has just
published an interesting paper in the journal Paludicola 4(3):74-80 Jan 2004,
Data Regarding the Skull of Dolichorhynchops osborni (Plesiosauridea:
Polycotylidae) From Rediscovered Photos of the Harvard Museum of Comparitive
This is not to demean his status as a legendary collector (a status
without peer in the Niobrara chalk), but George Sternberg loved his plaster.
distinctive museum displays are to be found in museums across the globe. His
famous Xiphactinus "fish-in-a-fish" is a world-class specimen at the Sternberg
Museum. What you must remember about these exhibits is that they are entombed
in seas of plaster that have penetrated every nook and cranny of the skeletal
system not exposed for display. The calcium sulfate has an eternal lock on
delicate bone structures. I've seen film of the "fish-in-a-fish being"
in the 1950's. A wooden frame was placed around the specimen and when the
plaster was poured on all that bone it was like stepping into a cold shower.
Kindy takes the breath away.
Anyway, a miracle has happened and Mike has discovered photos of this
beautiful and delicate polycotylid before being engulfed, sent by Sternberg to
Charles Gilmore at the Smithsonian back in 1926. Eventually the fossil was
aquired (in its new plaster sarcophagus) by the MCZ where it now happily lives
with the famous Kronosaurus which has also had its share of plaster trouble.
But that's another story. If you want a pdf file of Mike's paper just reply to
me and I'll send it out pdq.
Also, Mike has an fine new page on Cretaceous marine turtles at OOK
with excellent illustrations: http://www.oceansofkansas.com/Turtles.html