Finally, a look at horns

18 December 2008. IVPP, Beijing

After wrapping up some loose ends from early 2008 projects, I took some time and finished cleaning all of our fossil finds from the Tibetan Plateau this year.

Now it is time for me to begin identifying and describing all the horned ungulates.

We collected numerous horncores this past season, most of them incomplete. However, the wealth of specimens makes up for their fragmentary nature.

[A relatively complete horncore of Olongbulukia tsaidamensis, the Olongbuluk beast of the Tsaidam Basin]

Equally exciting is a partial mandible of a large mammal that we could not identify in the field; after discussing with my host advisor, we now believe this specimen might belong to an anthracothere. Anthracotheres are a family of early artiodactyls, and people have suggested they provide the link between hippos and more modern terrestrial hoofed mammals. It would indeed be a very important find if we could confirm its identity; late Miocene anthracotheres have not been found on the Tibetan Plateau, or anywhere else in China.

In other news, we are blessed by the visit of my fellow graduate student from the University of Southern California and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. Jingmai O'Connor is spending a month in the IVPP studying Mesozoic birds of China. We shared an office in Los Angeles, and now we share an office in the IVPP for the next month.

[Jingmai working next to mammal fossils from the Tibetan Plateau]