Before and during PaleoFest 2004—Part 2

The two days before PaleoFest at Burpee Museum of Natural History, the science of dinosaur paleontology was in full swing. With five of the six members of the JANE panel sifting over JANE’s bones, some major discoveries were made

One was reported in my last article about the new skull bone never before seen in a tyrannosaurid. The skull bone christened on the 19th makes yet another argument for the case of JANE not being a young Tyrannosaurus rex. Yet a bigger magic moment came a day before the PaleoFest. Months ago, a bone thought to be a backbone chevron was cleaned and lumped together with a piece that looked like a narrow two-pronged fork. These bones were found in the tail section, further suggesting that they were part of the tail. But to bone preparator Deb Moauro, the tail just didn’t add up, and the bones were kept in the “unknown” section of storage.

Just weeks ago, Deb found another section of bone that was in three pieces. When she cleaned them and put them together, she found it fit in between those two unusual tail bones. On Feb. 20, when Robert Bakker and Peter Larson were shown this compilation of bones, a light went on in Larson’s head. Larson declared that the bone could be JANE’s vomer, a middle bone in the roof of her mouth. All present were celebrating because the vomer’s shape was very different from the vomer’s shape in a T. rex. JANE’s vomer is very narrow in shape compared with a T. rex vomer. Burpee has a replica of Stan, the T. rex’s vomer. JANE’s vomer looks like a narrow, long two-pronged fork while Stan’s is shaped like a complete shovel.

Another panel opinion occurred just before PaleoFest when it was decided that JANE’s scapula coracoid, also known as the breastbone, gave better function for JANE’s arm. Actually, it’s the shoulder socket of JANE’s breastbone that gave her arm a better range of motion than what is normal for a T. rex. Rex could only move its arms up and down while JANE could move up, down and draw its arm back as if to elbow something. JANE’s shoulder socket is markedly ridged, which gives good range of motion, yet continuing coupling security. So put another strong point on JANE’s score card for her being a non-T. rex.

Another point of anatomy discussed by the JANE panel just before PaleoFest was that of an airhole in JANE’s quadratojugal known as a pneumatapore. The quadratojugal is a bone in the back and lower part of the skull. T. rexes don’t exhibit pneumatapores. The Cleveland nanotyrannus skull has a pneumatapore. Tom Carr, the most astute critic of nanotyrannuses being a separate species, believed the pneumatapore was an anomaly in the Cleveland skull. JANE’s pneumatapore proves Carr is probably wrong.

JANE’s humerus bone was a point of discussion when compared with a T. rex humerus. JANE’s humerus was 80 percent as big, yet JANE’s body is only half the T. rex’s size in length and one-fifth to one-eighth in weight.

Mike Henderson’s lecture was the best given on Sunday, the last day of PaleoFest. More than 200 attended his paleotalk on what JANE is. They still don’t know for sure, but Henderson said that the evidence has shifted back to JANE as being a non-T. rex. JANE is more primitive than a T. rex in some respects. Some compare her to a gorgosaur, a relative of the tyrannosaur with similar body proportions.

Bakker made the point in his paleotalk that on average, the most abundant teeth found at the site of T. rex skeletons were nanotyrannus. Bakker thinks nanos may have killed T. rexes. Bakker is adamant about JANE being a nano. I asked him whether I should bet my wheelchair that JANE’s a nano. Bakker replied, “You can bet your wheelchair, three mortgages, and Jimmy the Greek.”

Rod Myers is a local resident with an interest in the environment and disability issues. He has an associate’s degree in science and a bachelor’s in fine arts. Rod is a member of the Audubon Society, the Wild Ones Natural Landscapers and Rockford Amateur Astronomers, Inc.

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