As it says in my profile, I'm a volunteer part-time fossil preparator for the Dallas Museum of Nature and Science. It's a wonderful avocation, and for the past 2 1/2 years (give or take a month), I've been at work scribing limestone off an Alamosaurus cervical vertebra.
Yes, it probably sounds boring, but deeply intriguing to me.
I know something about comparative vertebrate anatomy, since I took it last century and earlier this century I taught human anatomy labs and was a docent for the Body World's exhibit. But nothing prepared me for just how WEIRD this bone is, from its unusually high neural spine to the chambered "cheeto" interior, everything is an endless source of curiosity and fascination to me. It's very different than the drawings of other titanosaurus vertebra that I've seen (this is D-4 in the sequence.)
Right now, I'm cleaning off the cotyle using a fairly fine scribe... and it seems to have a "collar" around it -- or, at least around the bottom and the sides. I'm not sure how far above the "collar" the cotyle rises, because what I thought might be the surface of the cotyle turns out to be (sigh) a layer of limestone (more scribing just when I thought I was done with that area.) The "collar" is defined by a shallow (but definite) trench-like fossa about 1/4 inch deep in a flat-bottomed "U" that's open at the dorsal end (not a break; this appears to be the way it grew.) And at the bottom of the fossa is a layer of hair-fine threads of bone that look a bit like lamination (except that they're not stacked together; they're separated by about a milimeter of stone)... and they sort of look like a "laminar flow diagram" in water.
It's not "possible connective tissue" -- at least, not like the other patches I've seen before. I have identified structures (and showed them to the paleontologists) that I thought might be "fossil remains of connective pad tissue" between the epiphyseal contacts of the forward vertebra and the extended diapophysis of the following vertebra (I think I've convinced them that there's indeed structure there) -- it's not like that, though. I uncovered a portion of a cervical rib (which has a very strange texture)... and it's not that kind of (possibly springy) tissue. It's not like any feature on any vertebra I've seen before... but I do have a limited experience here.
However, I'm doing the work for two very fine paleontologists (Ron Tykoski and Tony Fiorello) -- very kind men who don't mind taking the time to educate this very unlettered preparator. It'll be interesting to see what they say.
I'm thinking I may have to take more pictures and map out the areas on the bone where the bone itself changes texture (it does this in several places) -- from compact bone to bone with "stringy" like ridges (not an artifact of preservation) that look similar in texture to the cervical rib (the weird thing is that it's on the anterior dorsal surface of the neural spine and is nowhere near a cervical rib.)
I love this bone. It's so weird.
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