"Donors receive a certificate and will get an invitation to the donor preview party in the spring when the full exhibit is completed," Harris said. "Now it's the holiday season, and we're encouraging people to give a bone for the holidays---it's an exciting and unusual gift idea. There's no limit of sponsors per bone."
The Basilosaurus skeleton was discovered in 1987, when a member of Gingerich's team found a bit of the whale's shoulder blade protruding from the sand. As he swept the sand away, he revealed the whale's lower jaws, but the field season was almost over, so the team simply noted the fossil's location and covered it back up. Two years later, they returned to excavate the skull and lower jaws, casts of which have been on display at U-M since 1997.
On that same return trip, Gingerich made an astonishing discovery when he stopped to pick up what he thought was a piece of Basilosaurus rib. The "rib" turned out to be a small femur (thigh bone) of a mammal with a well formed knee joint. Suspecting that the diminutive leg belonged to Basilosaurus, Gingerich returned to a skeleton that was well exposed in the desert sand and, surprisingly quickly, recognized another small leg, this one in its rightful place far down the lengthy vertebral column.
Armed with the knowledge that at least some of these huge whales had legs and knees and knowing where on the skeleton to look for them, Gingerich's team re-examined and excavated other Basilosaurus skeletons whose locations they had mapped, and ended up finding a complete pelvis, leg bones, ankles and even toe bones. The giant whale's legs and feet were small and useless for walking, but they represented an impo
|Contact: Nancy Ross-Flanigan|
University of Michigan