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Chicago Adventure, Part Four: Rodents of Unusual Size (And Other Mammals, Too)

Chicago Adventure, Part Four: Rodents of Unusual Size (And Other Mammals, Too)


The Chicago Field Museum is one of the largest and most respected natural history museums in the world. Join me as we go behind the scenes! Dun dun dun! Are these elephants?! Yes.
– Oh my god! Here, oh let me just open my cabinet of elephants. Good thing I’ve been working out. Oh my god! This is one half of an ancient elephant jaw.
– Oh my god. So, this was sawed at the synthesis between the two dentaries.
– Yeah. This is one dentary, right? This is one tooth, okay? And elephants are bizzare
– In one mandible. in that their tooth replacement is not like you and me, it’s from behind. What?
– Yeah, so, the tooth is- the new tooth is formed back here and as the elephant grows, it migrates forward and pushes this one out. That’s crazy! And in an elephant’s lifetime, in each quarter- one quarter, two quarter, three quarter, four quarter- there are six teeth. Nu-uh.
– Yeah.
– You’re making it up. I kid you not!
– You’re a liar!
– I am not a liar! And, so this tooth then, pushes this one forward. Sometimes you’ll see uh, two of them together, one on the way out, one on the way in. As the elephant goes from very small to larger, the tooth that fits in the small elephant wouldn’t function very well in the larger elephant. So the sixth and last tooth is in place, uh, when the animal is an adult, and then stays with it for the rest of its life. That’s amazing. This is awesome. That is so big. This is the cranium that goes with this guy. This was collected in central Sumatra in 1923, and the-
– Oh my god. the eye was here, the tusk was here, the, uh, trunk was here, and the animal is sort of moving in this direction. Look at this cranium! It’s like- like a bulbous shape. That’s the ear, where the ear comes in and out of. With the ear. The ear bits. I can’t even formulate sentences anymore. This one, uh, you’re looking sort of straight on. It’s tilted up a little bit. This is plaster that was put in place, uh, because this came off exhibit. But, the tusks were here, and the trunk fed up here into the nasal cavity right here, okay? Now in prehistoric times, that is before we started recording history, uh, ancient civilizations were digging up fossilized mammoths, mamm- mastodons, elephants.
– Mmhmm. Uh, But they had no idea what those animals were. And so, this skull supported the myth of the cyclops, *Gasps* Oohhhh, yeah!
– because of the hole in the middle there. That’s crazy! I- I get where they see that.
– Yeah. I mean, I- yeah.
– And in fact, so you’ll see some, um, renderings of cyclops where they actually have fangs. And it’s because the skulls they were finding still had tusks. Oh my gosh, that’s crazy. Are these phalanges? Those are the foot bones, from the feet.
– These are- oh, wow. So this is like one toe bone, this is like-
– Mmhm. Yep. This is huge! This is like as big as m- almost my forearm!
– You wanna see something really big? Yeah.
– How many cervical vertebrae do you have? I have seven.
– How many does Michael have? Probably seven.
– How many does Jane Hanna have? I- I think most humans have seven.
– How many does the giraffe have? Seven!
– Oh-ho-ho! This is crazy! What, so this is one vertebrae.
– One cervical vertebrae. One cervical vertebrae from a giraffe. So put it up next to your neck. It’s like as bi- it’s as long as my neck.
– I rest my case. You see the tissue that’s on here? Right here?
– Yeah. So, historically, we would look at that and say we didn’t do a good job cleaning that. And this is- this is a danger to us because it’s an attraction for pests, right?
– For the beetles. But, increasingly, we get requests for DNA from different animals.
– Oh yeah. And, we come to these places- this is a gold mine now because we can scrape that off and get DNA out of these little bits of tissue that are on the skull. So we used to really curse and swear at the person who prepared the specimen
– Mmhmm. where it was really dirty.
– Yeah. Um, these days, we curse them and then we- we are in love with them because we can get material to get DNA and they don’t have to snip any of our skins.
– Yeah. So being lazy pays off?
– Yeah. But don’t follow that advice. This is a sabrinus collected in the 1800’s
– What? from Washington state. It was actually specifically 1898. So as you know, flying squirrels don’t fly, they glide, right?
– Yeah. And they have this cartilaginous rod that sticks out and supports this membrane that goes all the way to the back foot.
– Mmhmm. And, um, when they jump out, they spread their legs and they can glide.
– Like a saucer The flat tail actually allows them to alter that flight path as they move.
– Mmhmm. But what I want to show you is that we- while we have two species in the States, flying squirrels occur in other parts of the world. They are also found on the island of Borneo.
– What? OH my GOD! This thing is hu- you’re kidding me! That thing is gigantic!
– Check it out! That’s like a UFO!
– Check it out. Notice the cartilaginous rod sticks out, supports the membrane, all the way to the back foot. This is- that’s- this is crazy talk- it’s like a flying beaver! It’s huge!
– This is diddly-squat. No!
– I’m telling you, Emily. So big. What? Oh my GOD! These are huge! I did not even know they could be this big ever! Th- This is crazy talk! Where are these from?
– China, 1925. There’s ju- this doesn’t even compute. We have Rocky, that I showed you originally. We’ve got Borneo, we have China. We have representation of the diversity of flying squirrels, right?
– Mmhmm. So you, the student of flying squirrel evolution, or ecology, or conservation, can come here and have at your fingertips: the biggest, the smallest, the fattest, the skinniest, the blackest, the whitest, the male, the female, the 1900, the 2005. So if you go to Times Square, New Year’s, watch the ball drop, you look around, there’s hundreds of thousands of people that are all standing next to you.
– Mmhmm. Not one looks like you.
– Yeah. And so, that’s the same thing with flying squirrels, it’s the same thing, uh, with raccoons.
– Wow. And, we’re here, we have this collection and we’re continuing to add to it and we are maintaining it so that we can figure out what makes this planet tick. I want to be a flying squirrel expert. Can I do that? You bet!
– Hell yeah!

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