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Sunday, March 4, 2012

PaleoFest 2012 - Day 2

Today we launched into the 2nd and sadly the final day of the outstanding PaleoFest at Burpee Museum in Rockford, IL. Some of the speakers today aren't as well known as others, but that didn't stop their lectures from being great.

Our first lecture, at 10:15AM, was titled "The Paleontology of Sid the Sloth", with Robert McAfee, a self-described "slothologist", who was very entertaining with his humor. The main point of the lecture, besides all the other stuff he was filling our brains with that I never even knew before, just what in heck is Sid? What genus, what species is he? Basing off of his seen diet, his features, size, etc, McAfee said Sid is a Nothrotheriops shastensis, with some Megalonyx-like tendencies, given some artistic license with the incisors. McAfee answered a question of mine that's been rattling in my brain; what was the body covering of the supermega sloths (as I tend to call them)? Shaggy fur? Elephantine skin? McAfee mentioned how he thinks it was possible for the supergiants, like Megatherium or Eremotherium to have a shaggy coat, depending on where they lived; the ones in Argentina and Canada, he said, would most definitely have this coat.

We stayed at our next lecture until about the 45-minute mark. Hosted by Fred Smith, we learned in-depth about Neanderthals (Neandertals, if you roll that way), Homo sapiens neanderthalensis (or Homo neanderthalensis if you roll that way). Smith did a good job explaining the differences between humans and Neanderthals, and also stressed the fact that Neanderthals just are NOT dumb, a stereotype that I particularly hate. At 12:20, we had to roll out and grab some lunch real quick. Why?

We were attending Scott Sampson's kids lecture at the Women's Centre. Yeah, kill me, I attended a kid's lecture. Look, I just wanted to meet Sampson. That's all. Despite the fact it was a kid's lecture, it wasn't near "dumbed"-down as some would think, and it reminded me of myself when I was a little 4 year old, having a conversation with Bob Bakker like I was his colleague. After the lecture, I slipped out of the room to be first-in-line, so he could sign my journal. I also gave him a drawing I did with my autograph and I think he took my pencil by accident. :P Ah well. After briefly speaking to him, I slipped back into the auditorium and watched for a little bit a documentary on Jane the Rockford T. rex, and then we headed back to the museum a little bit after 2:00. 

Given our next lecture was at 3:30, we had quite a bit of time to kill. We headed up to the third level to see the new Neanderthal exhibit and back down to the coal forest, where I keep noticing new things. When we went back down to Homer's realm, we watched a girl (apparently, her name is Sam, something I only figured out right before writing this) drawing a standoff between a pair of Albertosaurus and Edmontonia. She told us about her technique and what she does and thanked her for her tips. We headed back upstairs, for no particular reason that I can remember, and ran into a volunteer working a table near the Jane exhibition. We hit him up talking about art as well, and then he headed back downstairs to talk to Sam. Around lecture time, we headed downstairs again, and ran into Sam again, as well as the guy from earlier and then another guy, who I later figured out, was apparently a fellow member from The Paleo Handbook! We talked and shared art for quite a bit, and I almost didn't make it to the lecture in time! Their deviantart accounts are below by the way:

Our final lecture was about the sabertooth cats, more specifically Xenosmilus and the scimitar cats. Virginia Naples, our speaker, had a lot to say about the anatomy of Xenosmilus, and how the different cats - dirktooth, scimitar tooth, cookie-cutter tooth, and conical tooth cats, hunted and occupied different niches. Apparently, Homotherium would run its prey down, while Smilodon and Xenosmilus were solitary ambush hunters. I learned a lot about the anatomy of cats and how they would have attacked. Fun fact: Xenosmilus are good tennis players.

Sadly, that last lecture closed up another PaleoFest. We still had fun though, especially after the lecture, where I and my dad, who has been living in the same town for fifty years, found out that our own little town actually had a fossil formations, yielding invertebrates from Ordovician deposits. We had some of these fossils, by the way, and as the woman who helped identify them, was looking some stuff up, we got to actually step foot in the lab. It was really cool seeing all the fossils, models, and posters (which I noticed a poster from Peabody calling a Pteranodon a Rhamphorhynchus) inside the lab, and even though huge windows look into the lab, I don't think I should share all that's going on in there. Suspense and tantalizing wonder for you. We swung by Michael's afterward and got some art supplies, then headed home. This is all thanks to Burpee Museum, which is the ONLY museum in North America that presents this opportunity. Check out their website and visit some time.

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