Sternberg, C. H.
A Kansas mosasaur.
Popular Science News 33:259-260.
Copyright © 2004-2010 by Mike Everhart
Webpage created 12/05/2006 - Last updated 12/22/2010
LEFT: The skull of a complete specimen of Platecarpus tympaniticus (FHSM VP-322) found in 1950 by G. F. Sternberg in Gove County, KS. See more details of the numerous pathologies associated with this specimen HERE.
Wherein Charles H. Sternberg describes the genera of mosasaurs found in the Kansas chalk and the discovery of a well preserved specimen of Platecarpus tympaniticus Cope which he sent to the University of Iowa. See more about Charles H. Sternberg here.
|November, 1899 POPULAR SCIENCE 259|
There are three well-defined genera of the Mosasaurs found in the chalk of western
A short neck of seven vertebrę characterizes all these reptiles; behind which were the scapular arches, from which were suspended the fore paddles, that consisted of the hands with five fingers, between which a membranous web was spread. They all had hind paddles attached to the pelvic arch, similar to the front ones, behind which was an elongated tail of many vertebrę that gradually decreased in size, so that the last one was a mere button, quite small, with no processes. They resembled both the snakes and lizards. Owing, however, to the presence of the limbs many paleontologists place them among the lizards. Hence the namea lizard of the river
Last year, while I was making one of my annual expeditions in search of fossil vertebrates in the chalk of Plum Creek, Grove [sic] County, Kan., my son George, a boy of 14 years, showed me three caudal vertebrę of a Platecarpus lying on a narrow ledge in a low wash in the yellow chalk. As the caps [cups] of the vertebrę pointed into a low mound, and, no fragments were protruding from the opposite ravine, the hope at once rose that I might be able to procure the whole skeleton, except, of course, the caudals that had been cut away by the wash along which those first seen were lying, in case the animal had died a natural death, and was not torn to pieces by the other voracious reptiles and fishes that so thickly patrolled the waters of his day, in search of food.
Since 1875, 1 have explored, year after year, the famous chalk of Kansas, and have collected hundreds of the denizens of the old cretaceous ocean, whose scattered remains lie buried there. From many bitter disappointments I knew, however, that this specimen like many others might, after I had spent days of heavy labor in uncovering the floor on which it lay, prove to be only a
scattered bones torn from an animal by one who was fighting for his dinner, but was forced
to drop it and fight another who also wanted it, and the consequence was it fell to the
bottom of the sea. We find paddles here, skulls there. But a perfect skeleton is rare
indeed. These great reptiles, fishes, birds and pterodactyls, lived during the age
of reptiles, before the mammals with gentler instincts arrived on the stage of the
worlds upward march towards higher and better types. They were all flesh-eaters and
doubtless devoured their own offspring. The results of many battles I have seen in the broken ribs and other bones that have reunited. The most
famous one I am familiar with is recorded in a Platecarpus
discovered by Dr. Willistons expedition of last year, for the
|250 POPULAR SCIENCE November, 1899|
column had fallen apart, owing either to maceration in
the water or the work of reptiles or fishes in search for food; fortunately they were but
little disturbed, and the eye could easily see where each vertebra belonged.. The head was
entire, except that the pterygoids and quadrates were a little out of place. The skull lay
with top down, and the dentary bones were pressed down against the maxillaries, showing
the teeth a little out of position.
chief value lies in the fact that all the bones, except three vertebrę, were preserved in the condition in which the animal
died, and not distorted by pressure, as is almost always the case. A very skillful man
could mount the entire skeleton, every bone nearly in its natural position, and all the
parts he would have to restore from another individual would be a few finger bones and ten
feet of the tail. This I believe has never been attempted. It gives me pleasure to tell my
readers that this Platecarpus is now in the museum of the
Credits: I am grateful to Carl Mehling of the American Museum of Natural History for supplying me with a copy of this article. Popular Science News (not to confused with Popular Science Monthly) was a short lived journal and is rarely found in libraries.