Project: Rhino

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posted 08-02-2002 10:59 AM

Juvenile Rhino Radius and Ulna

These two bones are considered to be from a juvenile because the ends are still unfused as seen by the rugose or roughened ends. Similar to humans, the bones of other mammals fuse when they reach adulthood.

07-24-2002 01:05 PM

Courtney's mishmash of bones is well on its way. Much of the matrix has been completely revomed. She got some help from Jason, another intern, and a couple volunteers, so the work went quicker. Not too much left to go...


07-03-2002 11:48 AM

Carol got the femur together with its counterpart from the other jacket. She also plastered the cracks in all the bones. Here are some final shots:


07-03-2002 11:39 AM

We received a skull from our research associate which had already been largely removed from the matrix, but still needs a good deal of work. The front teeth are detached, and must be cleaned and reattached. There is also a thin veneer of dirt that must be removed from the entire specimen. Take a look:

This is the new skull beside the finished one we did in the lab previously.

Carol has what should be a nice specimen when she is done.


07-02-2002 11:06 AM

Courtney opened a jacket labelled "Ribs Etc".

We now know what the "etc." means. She found a forearm (radius and ulna) as well as 18 rib sections and 3 vertebrae. Compared to the ribs and vertebrae, the limb bones are in good shape. Here's a picture:

The dust is making Courtney sneeze all the time. But that hasn't deterred her efforts. We have a serious crew of preparators here!


05-15-2002 04:05 PM

Carol is puzzling the last pieces of femur together. Shw will then plaster the cracks and holes. Eventually she will join the end of the femur from her jacket to the half that came out from my jacket with the rhino hips. Stay tuned...

posted 04-25-2002 05:41 PM

Carol has the rhino foot exposed now. It's quite lovely for this material. The foot and lower limb is nicely articulated (the bones are placed where they were in life). Here's a photo:


03-14-2002 12:41 PM

She's got toes showing. Three stubby rhino toes made their appearance.

Next Carol has a challenge. The rest of the femur has most of its parts, but the bones shifted before they were glued together. She had to drip the glue on them before she even touched them or they would have crumbled all to bits. Now it is a matter of either breaking them apart, or if possible, working off the glue connections by dissolving them in alcohol. She says she is not looking forward to the job.


02-28-2002 04:08 PM

Carol is working on parts of the same rhino whose hips drove me crazy for so long. She has the end of the femur (thigh bone) that didn't make it into the other jacket, a lower leg and foot.

If you look at the lower leg of this critter, you would swear it was a dwarf. It has a regular sized femur but a stumpy little shin. Imagine your shin being half as long as it is now. Those are about his proportions. We'll have to look into this to see if it's a funny individual or some type we haven't seen before. He sure is bizarre!


02-21-2002 08:03 PM

The large flat plaster jacket on the center table has a mess of ribs crossing over one another. There was a warning written on the jacket that it would be tough, but it has turned out to be one of the faster and easier rib projects. We numbered the ribs and made a diagram of what came from where to keep it all straight. But it is largely complete, with only some gluing to finish.


01-17-2002 05:22 PM

This rhino project is done now. I plastered a board to the base of the jacket to support it. I can help it no more. Bill Korth, the reseach associate who collected the rhino material, brought in the other half of the femur. It was taken out of the rock in a separate jacket. Sometime soon we will have a complete femur for our collection. Goodbye rhino, I'm off to work the dinosaurs.


01-13-2002 01:16 PM

AAK! I was trying to reinforce the jacket just before finishing this up today. Michael and I lifted the jacket up onto a board...the entire jacket flexed and broke up parts of both the pelvis and where the spine and pelvis meet! The bottom of the jacket without the rock in it is like a piece of cloth: there's no strength in it whatsoever. I found another downward projecting part of the jacket that is that soft too. I want to scream! I was going to finish today...ARRRRGH!!

On a calmer note, I smeared plaster all into the cracks in the femur and it seems solid and happy. At least somebody is!


01-06-2002 12:57 PM

We keep opening up more and more jackets containing ribs. Some of them are purely plant food, with roots snaking all the way through and into the bones.


01-06-2002 12:48 PM

Barbara also has a jacket with vertebrae in it. These were jumbled like puzzle pieces, however. At first we couldn't even figure out what portion of the spine we were looking at, but then we realized what we were seeing was not one but two bones intertwined. Oops!


01-06-2002 12:41 PM

Getting into the "base" of the concretion on the spine, I'm finding a few preserved vertebral surfaces here and there. The weird part is that those preserved surfaces were closer to the ground surface. This rock is so highly variable - the fossils seem almost randomly permineralized (preserved with minerals taken up from the surrounding rock) or leached of their own minerals.

I'll do a little more final clean up and then reinforce the jacket for storing in the permanent collection. Then it's time for a new project!


12-30-2001 04:19 PM

Diane worked on a right scapula (shoulder blade) that was very cracked and infiltrated with plant life. The roots grew in among the cracks pretty thickly. Despite a fair amount of deterioration, she was able to salvage a good portion of the specimen. It was a good example of our rhino material. Diane's almost done with the project. All she has to do is some undercutting and then the back side of the scapula will be free.


12-27-2001 10:12 AM

The femur was deceptively solid-looking at first. The end of the bone collapsed and crumbled. The ball joint, however, isn't doing too badly. Michael should be done with this piece relatively soon.


12-26-2001 10:20 AM

Getting down into that concretion, I'm finding lots of "spine" but it has no surface -- it is unconsolidated powdered/crushed bone material in roughly the space the spine should be. Arrgh!


12-19-2001 11:04 AM

Within my ugly concretion, what I thought was going to be a vertebra ended up being the head of a rib (another rib!). Unfortunately, it looks like the best information we could get from this jacket would be how big a baby rhino could get.

Forrest Gump might say, "Fossils are like a box of chocolates..." We have to go through all the jackets to be sure we aren't missing anything new or important.


12-14-2001 10:22 AM

A cool surprise -- Carol found a pretty wrist bone in with her hip. It's about as long as a baseball is wide. This rhino was no demure little creature, that's for sure!


12-14-2001 10:17 AM

Despite nasty technical difficulties (the compressed air line was spewing lubricating oil and condensed water), I uncovered what looks like the end of the pelvis. It was warped up and a large chunk is missing where that big crack was when I first opened the jacket. Mother Nature was trying to recycle this critter, grinding him into dust. Nature is terribly efficient at that and that's why fossils are so rarely preserved. She got to the spine before I did -- it is not much more than crumbly powder encased in concretion.

So what remains is to take this concretion down, cut the jacket to fit just the pelvis, clean it up a bit more, reinforce the jacket, and this project should be done.


12-07-2001 12:29 PM

Why are the bones so broken up, you ask? This pelvis, in particular, has lots of roots of plants emerging from the cracks. Plants can break up brittle bone fairly easily. The bone is softer than the encasing rock, so the roots take the easier path growing through the bone. End result: broken up fossil.

I'm very close to taking the femur our of the jacket. It's just a matter of gluing it sufficiently to hold itself together. But it will be very soon...


12-04-2001 04:59 PM

For some reason, there are lots and lots of ribs preserved in these specimens. Yes, each critter had many ribs, but they are easily broken and less likely to be preserved than larger, sturdier bones.

We have a few people working on jackets with ribs in them. Some are nearly whole, while others are fragmented.


12-04-2001 04:55 PM

Considering the lower surfaces of these bones are so highly fractured, I really wonder what the top surfaces look like. (I am working this jacket from bottom to top.) Usually the top is in worse shape because it gets more exposure to the weather and to local critters. I hope that these are atypical and the tops are in better shape than the bottoms.

The lower surfaces of the vertebrae have not been preserved well at all. The bone is powdery and crumbled. There really isn't anything in those vertebrae to save thus far. But I have to keep working out the matrix in case there is something cool behind it. You can get lucky when you least expect it.


11-30-2001 04:55 PM

That supposed "knee cap" turned out to be the end of a limb bone. I have been doing more detailed cleaning of what is exposed so far, so it may not look like I've made too much progress. It's just that the work now is nose-to-the-fossil style.


11-28-2001 05:01 PM

Ugh! Part of the pelvis is so broken it's see-through! Glue and crossed fingers are my tools today.

I found yet another rib and a lump that might (?) be the knee cap. Perhaps. Sometimes you just can't tell until you can see the whole thing. I can't see if it is the broken end of a long bone or if it is complete as is.


11-28-2001 04:54 PM

The hip is now uncovered and is in lovely shape compared to the other rhino material we're working. The ribs broke up a bit, but we have many ribs and just a few hips (Hip hip hooray!)


11-25-2001 05:20 PM

Diane has been working on a small jacket which contains at least 6 rhino vertebrae (backbones) still hooked together. Vertebrae have lots of projecting spines and flanges so they can be very tough to work on. All the projections tend to break off. Her jacket is even more difficult because the bone is mostly encased in the really tough concretion portion of the matrix these rhinos are coming from. It's not only very hard, but it sticks to the bone better than the bone sticks to itself. Often the bone will split down the middle, half adhering to each side of the rock. Nasty stuff to work in. Not surprisingly, the vertebrae are coming out a bit unhappy. She may have to leave the back half of the spine in the rock in the jacket. Sometimes it's just safer that way.


11-25-2001 05:09 PM

Wow! Bone everywhere! This weekend I took about 100 pounds of rock out of the jacket. I uncovered the blade of the pelvis, more of the previously found pelvic bone, ribs floating about everywhere, and the leg bone which is now mostly out of the rock. It's all so crumbly, though. The bone is highly fractured and in some places just disintegrates into powder. It's good to see so much bone, but sometimes you just want to be able to get straight at a particular piece you are working on, not have to stop and work out the many small pieces in the way. And why o why can't the bone stay together?


11-21-2001 04:49 PM

Carol has another rhino jacket to work on. In the field they labeled it "Half Hip." It seems to have some extra goodies in it too. She uncovered part of the hip, a rib, and what may be a limb bone. It's a Rhino Smorgasbord


11-21-2001 04:43 PM

Dirt, dirt, and more dirt...

Today was fairly uninteresting, as some days are. I was trying to even out the surface of the open jacket. I took off a lot of matrix, but didn't uncover any new surprises. Twice I thought I hit bone but the pieces were just floating scraps no bigger than a pebble. My brand new air scribe died too. Stinky day for rhinos, I suppose.

Don't forget that the turkey you eat tomorrow on Thanksgiving is a dinosaur descendent. Mmm, roasted dinosaur!


11-21-2001 10:28 AM

When I opened the hip/spine jacket, there were two pieces of bone showing. One was a scrappy long bone, broken off after about an inch, but you could clearly see where the rest had lain in the rock (the outline was still there). Too bad the bone itself isn't present. The other piece is part of the femur, a bit broken up, but still probably useful for study. I should make it clear that this specimen won't be mounted for display. Most of the museum's collections are kept for scientific study, not exhibition.

After removing some of the rock matrix, I found what looks like a vertebra and possibly the pelvis. The work is moving pretty fast, but this is a big jacket. We'll just see what shows up next.


11-17-2001 11:59 AM

I started a rhino hip/spine jacket today. I had to open the jacket with a cast cutter like your doctor uses to cut the cast off your broken arm. It isn't the prettiest fossil material I've ever seen. The matrix has a big crack in the center --I don't know if that was there initially or if it was broken on its trip from Kansas to Pittsburgh. I soaked the bone that was showing with Butvar, a glue, to help preserve it, and then started scraping off the rock around the fossil. The matrix (rock) is really varied: some of it is like loose sand, some like solid extra crunchy Rice Krispies, and some is really, really hard. On the hard stuff I have to use either a hammer and chisel or an air scribe, which is sort of like a miniature jack hammer.

Allen S. is working on a vertebra of the adult Camarasaurus today. It is mostly prepared out of the rock so he is doing some more detailed cleaning.

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