Four complete, articulated, extant sauropod skeletons — yes, really!
August 30, 2009
Well, not really really.
What we have here is of course the bones of all four feet of a lizard (plus the limb bones): “sauropod” means “lizard foot”, so lizard-foot skeletons are sauropod skeletons — right?
(Note that the hind limbs are arranged in a weird posture here, with the knees bent forward. Also that the left pes is missing one digit — possibly IV — which was presumably lost some time ago and healed.)
These are the bones of “Charlie”, a mature savannah monitor lizard Varanus exanthematicus, estimated as fourteen or fifteen years old at the time of death. I have his whole skeleton — cranial, axial and limb-girdles — in various states of preparation, and no doubt they will all appear here sooner or later. I was fortunate enough to encounter Charlie in the reptile house of a local kids’ activity centre with the boys, and he was not in a good way. Luckily, his keepers happened to come in as I was looking at him, we got talking, and I popped the question as tactfully as I could — would it be OK to take his body away when the sad day comes?
The sad day came, and I found a message on my answering machine. For one reason and another, it was a couple of days before I was able to drive out and pick up his mortal remains, but it was a proud day when I brought him home:
Charlie was a good-sized beast: 111 cm in length from snout to tail, and massing 3.4 kg. I tell you, it was quite a challenge getting him into that pot that you see top right.
To prepare Charlie for the pan, I had to remove his tail — much, much harder than I’d been prepared for, as it was so difficult to locate the sacrocaudal intervertebral joint — and gut him. Unfortunately, by the time I opened him up, internal decomposition had set in, and he was not in a pleasant state:
(I have much more disgusting photos than this one, but it wouldn’t be tasteful to show them.) Anyway, I abandoned my initial plan of dissecting the organs out, and basically just removed and discarded them. I’ve actually had shamefully little experience with dead animals, so I don’t know how much the horrible state of Charlie’s guts is due to his final illness and how much to post-mortem decomposition.
Once I’d managed — just — to get him into the pot, Charlie was lightly simmered for a couple of hours (to Fiona’s delight), then dismembered, and the individual parts reboiled before I started picking the bones out of the various parts. There’s more to say, but that will have to wait for another time.