Jane studied at conference

St. Paul, Minnesota’s Radisson Hotel and Convention Center held this year’s Society of Vertebrate Paleontology Conference. The conference saw four days (Oct. 15-18) of lectures and other events relating to vertebrate paleontology, which is the study of fossils with backbones. Those in attendance representing Burpee Museum’s Jane team were Deb Moarb, Joe Peterson, Dave Carlson, Scott Williams and paleontologist Mike Henderson.

All of Jane’s skull parts, represented by unassembled plastic replicas, were taken to the conference along with a few real bones. The actual bones received many good comments on excellent preparation. The cast skull parts also drew many positive comments, some from Jerry Persick, a paleo dinosaur expert.

The purpose of the yearly conference is to help people interested or working in the field of vertebrate paleontology exchange information, learn of new discoveries, theories, books, and learn of new field techniques. Those are just some of the things learned at the convention via lectures, exchanges, display tables, and after-hours hobnobbing and socializing. You don’t need to work in the field of vertebrate paleontology to get in, but you do have to belong to the Society of Paleontology to get in.

Notable attendees relating to the subject of T-rexes were: Peter Larson, founder and director of the Black Hills Institute; Phil Currie, Canada’s most famous paleontologist; Tom Carr, Ph.D., student and leading advocate of the theory that Nanotyrannus specimens are actually juvenile T-rexes; author Mike Parrish; and Tom Holtz, a professor from Maryland who does extensive research on T-rexes. Robert Bakker was notably absent; he was either sick or just being anti-establishment, which is in his character. Robert Bakker, Peter Larson, J. Mackovicki, Mike Parrish, Phil Currie and Mike Henderson are all on the scientific panel that will decide Jane’s identity some time down the road.

Tom Carr was predictable at the conference, expounding his spin that Jane is a T-rex. His unyielding stance through the years keeps him off the panel, but one could argue that Robert Bakker’s steadfast leanings in the other direction make him prejudiced and somewhat of an “Archie” Bakker. Tom Carr is a generous chap, and after examining a few of Jane’s bones, he pointed out some of her anatomical feature details to Mike Henderson. One was the roughness or rugosity of one side of the long crest of a skull bone called the post orbital. The left post orbital, to be exact. It’s a very subtle roughness that Carr says only tyrannosaurids exhibit.

Peter Larson examined parts of Jane at the conference and remarked that Jane was probably bitten by a powerful dinosaur across the bridge of her nose but survived the injury. He based this assumption on what he perceived as part of Jane’s nasal bone that knitted to the left maxilla aka upper jaw. At any rate, the debate goes on as to what Jane is, but the scale is tipping in favor of one fact. That fact is that whatever Jane is, she’s probably a juvenile. Of the numerous juvenile tendencies, the newest indicator is distinct growth sutures on the surface of cervical vertebrae. This means Jane still had some growing to do at her time of death.

Mike Henderson is writing a technical article on Jane’s cervical vertebrae to be published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, which is a highly prestigious journal that’s published quarterly. Meanwhile, Burpee plans to CATscan some of Jane’s skull bones in hopes of finding tiny air sacs common to tyrannosaurids and, of course, birds.

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.

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!