SVP Report 3: the Page Museum

For the final entry in this year’s SVP recap, let’s head over to the Page Museum, which showcases specimens collected right outside its front doors in the La Brea tar seeps.

So many specimens have been collected from the tar seeps that the museum has over 400 dire wolf skulls on display – out of more than 1500 in their collections! It makes for an impressive Wall of Stuff. I am envious of their actual non-negligible sample size!

A dire wolf skeleton with a baculum! Now there’s something you don’t see every day!

I love surprises in museums! I’m used to seeing Panthera atrox, the large cat skeleton in this photo, labeled as the American lion, but here it was called Naegele’s giant jaguar! Turns out there’s been some back-and-forth about whether or not Panthera atrox is more lion-like or more jaguar-like; recent research seems to put it in the lion lineage. Whether or not the cat is a lion or a jaguar has some interesting biogeographical implications! P. atrox is a relatively rare component of the La Brea deposits compared to dire wolves and sabercats.

Giant not-condor says hi! HI TERATORNIS!

I’m sure I’m not the first to say this, but man, ground sloth feet are weird.

In addition to all of the lovely large skeletal mounts, there’s a very nice wall showcasing some of the smaller fossils, and things like taphonomy and pathology. Here’s a cool example of rodent gnaw marks on a bone!

And here are the fused foot bones of a Smilodon! Ouch!

There’s a really excellent fishbowl lab – nobody working there when I visited, since it was a Sunday, but it looks like a pretty busy place with lots on the go!

I also liked how they made it so you could see into the collections area!

Finally, I’ll end with this adorably retro display on the process of cataloguing and curating fossils (which I am totally happy to see in a museum exhibit)…featuring punch cards.


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