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I am really excited about a project we have been working on. We decided to switch our shark displays from the ones based on Geological era to a taxonomic display style. We had been considering this since we made a similar switch with our dinosaurs. It has made those programs flow more easily and i think allowed the kids to get a better understanding of the animals. We originally set our displays up as they were because we simply did not have enough material to do taxonomic displays. There were a few orders of sharks for which we had only one or two fossils and one extinct order for which we had zero fossils. Doing the displays along a timeline allowed us to cover up the holes in the collection. We have made a lot of improvements to our shark collection in the last year and were strongly considering changing things. A conversation with @siteseer really sealed the deal. Jess nudged me over the ledge lol So work has begun on this project and I am loving it but it is a lot of work. Each order of shark, extant and extinct, will eventually have it's own display. Within the the display, each family or in some cases genus, will be set up by temporal range. I think these displays will not only allow more efficient presentations but will also show temporal range and distribution as best we can. Step 1 was identifying which orders, families, and genera we need to add to the collection in order to round out what we already had. Some orders needed little attention but there were some that needed a bit of a boost. Heterodontiformes was an example of one that needed to a boost. We had Jurassic teeth (Paracestracion and Heterodontus) but little else. Having the Jurassic teeth is awesome because it shows how far back they go in the fossils record but that would be an underwhelming display visually and not give the kids a great sense of the sharks. We had to find fossils to place them at various points in their temporal range and widen their distribution to the best of our ability. Pristiophoriformes was another that we needed to upgrade as we only had one small rostal tooth. We had a good variety of material for most extinct orders but wanted a Carboniferous Xencanthid tooth to better tell the whole story of the Eel sharks as all of ours were Permian. We picked through micro fossils to add Devonian Ctenacanthiformes teeth to expand the temporal range and add diversity in the form of Phoebodus. Step 2 is on going and is probably the hardest part, acquiring the fossils we need. It is quite easy to find some of the things we needed. Others have been extremely difficult and a few are pretty much impossible. We are unlikely to knock Hemiscyllium or Oxynotus off the list. It proved very difficult, but not impossible, to locate a Cenozoic Chiloscyllium tooth. We had Cretaceous teeth but nothing beyond that and Bamboo Sharks are one that we do talk about quite a bit. After a lengthy search, we finally tracked one down and it was quite inexpensive. Cost is always a factor for us so early on we understood we were not going to be adding some collector type teeth like a 2" Chilean White Shark or the transitional White Shark teeth. We focused instead in smaller teeth and anything that added a new shark, contributed to showing distribution or temporal range. For us a STH Scyliorhinus is a significant fossils because it adds to both distribution and temporal range of a shark we talk about. I am very proud of some of the inexpensive teeth we have found including a Chilean Angelshark, a Miocene Mitsukurina, the Paleocene Chiloscyllium, and a Heterodontus fin spine from STH. We have also been greatly aided in our quest by a couple of donations, including one from @Troodon that included very important Eocene Orectolobiformes teeth and a super Megachasma from Chile. I want to credit @siteseer too though I am not sure what he is sending but I know it help tremendously lol Step 3 was figuring out how many display cases we would need and what sizes we would need. We knew that in addition to the displays by order, some sharks would get their own displays. For example, we have a lot of Lamniformes that we cover during our presentations but Goblin Sharks get special attention because kids really love them so they would get a separate display. The displays will not be of uniform size as some orders will be better represented. There will be more Carcharhiniformes than other orders for example. Size of the shark and size of the fossils also contribute to the need for a variation in display size. Step 4 is dismantling the old displays and putting together the new ones. This is on going and will not be finished until mid March probably. We need new labels which is taking a bit of time as there is a lot of shark fossils going into these displays. Step 5 will be displays of shark relatives. I think we will have one small one that will feature the three Stethacanthids we have, one small display for the two Eugenodontids and then another larger one to house the Batoids. We do cover shark relatives and they are quite popular with the students so these are important to the programs too. Kids love these wierdo creatues lol One of the really cool parts of this project is it allows me to think as an educator but also very much as a collector. I am an educator first and these fossils are for educational purposes but I consider myself a collector of shark fossils too. Doing this does allow me to add things that have educational value but also cross things off the personal list of sharks I want in the collection, like Megachasma and Mitsukurina. I can also view the collection and see areas where we can improve the quality of teeth at some point down the road. White Sharks and Cow sharks in particular will get an upgrade at some point. We can hunt for some of the rare Squaliformes teeth. Maybe we will track down a Ctenacanthus fin spine. Our goal is not just to tell the story of sharks but to show the story of sharks through the fossils. The people who invite us to present our fossils not only get to handle Megalodon teeth but they get close up examinations of a 300 million year old egg case, a Hybodus fin spine, shark vertebra and can compare the difference between Sawshark rostal teeth and Sawfish rostal teeth in their hands. I am quite proud of the hands-on education we give people and I think this project improves the overall impact. This project has also given us far more scientific knowledge and a far better understanding of shark classification. The learning has been invaluable really. Carter and I are both very passionate about sharks as we are with all of our programs but sharks have a special place. When he was a little guy, we would watch shark documentaries and this is an extension of that father son time for us. We knew this would require spending more money and take some time to do but we know it will be worth it. This will be a shark education program that will educate elementary students, museum patrons, college students and senior citizens. That is pretty darn cool I think. We also want to thank all of the forum members who contributed shark fossils and knowledge over the last year. This, like our other programs, would not be possible without the support, encouragement and generosity of TFF members. I apologize for the length of this post lol I have been really busy and have not been able to take the time to post about this and am pretty excited hence the rambling nature. I will post some pictures as we go through this and complete these. Pic 1 one of the boxes of shark fossils currently laying around our house lol It is a small box but there is quite a lot stored in there, just waiting for their permanent home.
Fossils on Wheels got our first donations of fossil materials for our education program this week. My son and I have donated some of our fossils and loaned the rest. Since we are applying for a 501c3, we have to keep careful track of our fossils. IF they are paid for by Fossils on Wheels money, they belong to Fossils on Wheels. If they are purchased with our money, we donate and loan. Donations belong to Fossils on Wheels, not my son and I. I think that clarification is a good thing to let people know about because donations come from our new friends private collections and they are given with the intention of being used for education and given to the kiddos we educate. My son and I do not sell fossils. Fossils on Wheels will not be legally able to sell fossils. We will also not be trading donated fossils. They are strictly for education purposes. If you do donate fossils, we can track how they are used and verify where they end up. We had two donations this week and we want to thank our donors. The first donation was from @JBMugu and included a lot of shark teeth and mammal bones from Sharktooth Hill a.k.a Round Mountain Silt. Most of the teeth will be given to students from Paradise and Chico schools. A small number will stay in the program for shark tooth ID labs. A couple dozen of the teeth are headed to the Gateway Science Museum as a separate donation. The mammal bones will be used in our intermediate school education programs that focus on classification and evolution. All of these fossils, except for one ear bone, will be used for hands on exploration of fossils. The ear bone, I think it is from a small Odontoceti, will be used as a presentation piece for the evolution lab. We also got a donation of some super cool shark teeth from @caldigger and information explaining some of the differences in the fossilization process and why different fossils from different locations look different. We do want to explore the process of fossilization and how geology lets us learn about the natural history of the planet. This donation included a super cool split tooth that shows in the process perfectly. These teeth are for the presentation and the kids will get to handle a few of them in ID labs as well. We just wanted to thank our donors and to let our fellow TFF members know how much these donations help us with our goal is bringing fossil education to our local children. The first picture is various verts from STH. The large one, bottom left, is a cetacean. It looks very similar to a couple of Tiphyocetus verts from STH that i have. There is another large one which I would think would be cetacean. The smaller mammal verts I am not sure about. There is also a shark vert. Second picture is STH shark teeth. There C. hastalis, planus, plus a few tiger sharks and a few I am unsure about right now. Some still have STH dirt on them and I am thinking about having kids clean them during a lab. The third picture is the shark teeth from @caldigger including our first Pygmy White Shark teeth from morocco, some beautiful mako teeth and a few others that I need to ID.