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Lots of glue.

I've previously posted reports on sirenians I've found from the Oligocene of South Carolina. But the record on South Carolina dugongs goes all the way back to the Late Eocene. I've been collecting these primitive dugong remains for years. Their ribs are a common find along with Basilosaurus and Durodon material. So it came as no surprise when I came across one in a local limestone quarry in 2003. I was at the quarry helping with a massive Pleistocene excavation. One evening I was returning to my van when I noticed a few scraps of bone. One of the pieces was a chip from a dugong rib. This is very distinctive and was enough incentive to get me to track down the source. I followed a trail of broken bone fragments left by the blade of a bulldozer. This led me to an area about twenty feet in diameter that had a few large blocks of limestone. In the blocks I could see more broken bones. I could also see hundreds of bone fragments pressed into the ground. It appeared that an associated dugong had been dug out and laid on the quarry floor at one time. The limestone blocks were in the path of the huge quarry dump trucks and over several months they had been pulverized and scattered. My first impulse was to ignore the scrapes. But I turned around and started picking up all of the pieces I could find. I then took a rope and pulled the large blocks out of the path of the trucks. Each evening, after we stopped work at the Pleistocene site, I would stop and sift through a few feet of the material at the spot. I broke the larger blocks apart and over several weeks I had accumulated several hundred pieces. Among them were several teeth. This motivated me to look closer at the site. I started hauling buckets of the crushed limestone to a water drainage ditch about 200 feet away. There I screened it for smaller pieces. I dedicated about forty hours to collecting 323 bone fragments. That was the easy part. Now I had to put it all back together. At first I spent about two hours a week on the project. Then I came across something in a small piece of limestone that floored me. It was an incisor. Everyone knows that dugongs have tusks. Even the oldest known sireniens from Jamaica have tusks. So who's incisor was it? Intrigued, I concentrated on reconstructing the skull first. I then found the second incisor. And they both fit perfectly into the reconstructed skull. I contacted a sirenian expert at the Smithsonian and E-mailed pictures. It was compared with other Eocene dugongs and was found to be a new species. And the only known sirenian with incisors. While not the most primitive known sirenian, it had retained the original tooth morphology. I spent three months working on the remaining skeleton. It turned out to be fairly complete. Another surprise was when I recovered two ear ossicles. The anvil and stirrup. The completed skeleton was donated to the Smithsonian.
Location Berkeley County, South Carolina, USA

ID714
Memberpaleobum
Date Added11/26/2006

This is the associated dugong. It was missing the limbs. But it had the hyoid bone and periotics.
This is the partial skull. The round plastic container holds the anvil and stirrup. Did you know that sirenians have the largest inner ear bones of any animal?
This picture shows the top of the skull. The skull narrows considerably at the front. You can see the two small incisors.
This is a closeup of the incisors.
A view of the left maxilla with teeth.
A side view of the teeth. It's rare to find a complete dentition like the one shown.
  

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