Anyone who has spent time in any sort of museum collections for any amount of time by yourself (or in fact with other people) knows that it can do strange things to your brain. I find that there is something about being in the back of a museum left to your own devices to sift through cabinets of material with not a soul in sight for hours that just drives me a little mad. Don't get me wrong, it's very enjoyable and lots of fun opening up cabinets of material, wondering what you might find next (if you want to know more, check out John Hutchinson's recent post, "Delight in the museum" where he talks about just what happens and how it can be fun in the back, behind closed doors). However, it can also drive you a bit insane when you don't know anyone in the city you're in, and you have little human contact.
This was the case for me in January, when I had the amazing opportunity to spend 2 weeks in the collections at the American Museum of Natural History, looking at their pterosaurs and checking out the pterosaur exhibit, thanks to the Palaeontological Association who funded my visit. The first week wasn't as bad because there were a few other researchers around. It was just after Christmas and people seemed to have to same idea as me, doing some research in between a visit home and going back to work. By the start of the second week, however, everyone else disappeared.
After the pterosaur exhibit finished, I got to look at the specimen I had been waiting for: Anhanguera santanae (AMNH 22555), the mother of all pterosaur fossils, figuratively speaking. It's a lovely specimen with much of the skeleton present and preserved in three dimensions, and is a neat display when it's out.
|Anhanguera (AMNH 22555) on display|
First we have the cervical vertebrae in posterior view. Or as I prefer to call them, "blobby men". Although they are slightly creepy blobby men with their mouths in their stomach. Kind of like echinoderm blobby men.
|1st cervical vertebra of AMNH 22555 (AKA the axis-atlas complex). In case you can't see, that says "I'm going to eat you".|
|6th cervical of AMNH 22555|
The next weird pterosaur vertebra we have is the anterior face of some dorsal vertebrae. To me they look like faces with really bushy eyebrows, a cone strange kind of cone head, and a wide open mouth. What do you think?
|1st dorsal of AMNH 22555. It looks kind of like an old alien man with bushy eyebrows, or just really bone eyebrow ridges...|
|Cervical vertebra of TMP 92.83.7. It's a happy teddy!|