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The Denver Museum of Nature & Science Rediscovers Amazing Fossil

Posted 4/1/2015 12:04 AM by Steve Nash | Comments

Researchers at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science have rediscovered the fragmentary remains, including teeth, jawbone pieces, and long bones of a remarkable creature.

Based on analysis by Museum curator of Geology James Hagadorn, it is a remote ancestor of both whales and camels, temporarily referred to by Museum employees as, "The Whammel".

Whammel

“It was approximately 2,300 pounds. That’s basically the weight of a 1960 – 1967 Volkswagen Bus, without the camping package,” said Dr. Steve Nash, Museum archeologist.

“We think it may have stored fat from feeding on sand krill in its humps in order to travel long distances during mating season,” said Dr. John Demboski of the Zoology Department. “Both whales and camels have a large library of mating calls. Imagine the symphony of sounds that signaled procreation was imminent.”

Paper records regarding the remains of “The Whammel” were re-discovered during the transfer of the Museum’s Archives Collection into their new storage space located in the Morgridge Family Exploration Center. Archivists found a cryptic set of notes and sketches recorded by Museum scientists during fieldwork in remote Central Asia, in what is now Uzbekistan, in the summer of 1929. (See attached field sketch.)

Whammel 2

The notes gave scant indication that they may have found an intriguing set of fossil remains of an extinct mammal, but no details were recorded. Shortly after the team returned to the United States the stock market crashed, the Museum’s finances were thrown into turmoil and the fossils were apparently forgotten. The fossils themselves were rediscovered when Museum staff conducted a systematic search of the collections after the notes were found.  

Museum spokesperson Maura O’Neal was excited by the discovery, and wishes all friends of the Museum a happy April Fool’s Day.

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