western interior


Fossil Fish Skull (Xiphanctinus audax, Cretaceous) -  Niobrara Formation, Kansas

This sinister looking skull once belonged to a predatory fish that dominated the Western Interior Seaway known as Xiphactinus which was much longer than any bony fish of today. The beast is represented here by just a skull and some post-cranial material, but the point gets across nonetheless.

“Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

This scene represents a moment in time 83 million years ago, in what is now the state of Kansas, which was covered by a body of water known as the Western Interior Seaway and populated by diverse, prehistoric marine life. In this diorama near Dinosaurs in Their Time, an agile marine reptile, Dolichorhynchops bonneri, dives after the penguin-like bird, Hesperornis regalis.

It’s Shark Week!

Scientific name: Cretolamna appendiculata
Diet: Fish, small marine reptiles
Projected Natural Lifespan: 30 years
Length: 3.6 meters (12 feet)
Locality: Throughout North America, 
Exhibit: Western Interior Seaway, Aquarium

Cretolamna is a medium-sized shark, with species known from sites worldwide, ranging from the early Cretaceous to the Miocene. Unlike many fossil sharks, whole body fossils are preserved of it, providing a unique glimpse into its appearance. Its body is fairly elongated, and it bears a resemblance to living mako sharks. Its teeth are broad-based and have two short cusps at the base surrounding the longer, narrower crown, indicating a diet of fairly large prey. Cretolamna is thought to be ancestral to later giant lamniform sharks such as Carcharocles.

At Huxley
Cretolamna can be found in the Cretaceous section of the Aquarium, in the Western Interior Seaway hall. 

Notable Behavior
Our Cretolamna are pretty active and high-energy sharks, and quite fast-swimming. Like modern mako sharks, they have rete mirabilia that allow them to conserve heat and sustain a higher body temperature than the surrounding water, which undoubtedly boosts their activity. They did bump into the walls a bit when they were younger, but this has gotten a lot better over the years - in part due to visual markers delineating the wall (as seen above). And as a result, they eat more often - we feed them at least four times a week, more than most of our other chondrichthyans. When feeding, they swim up to bite from below, like several modern sharks. Combined with their speed, sometimes this leads to them leaping clear out of the water! 

Keeper Notes
They’re pretty tolerant of people, and show a notable curiosity in the divers that feed them and clean up the tank, even going so far as to rub against them. So far they’ve never bitten anyone, though our divers wear armored wetsuits just in case.

I was surprised to see that Hesperornis could be almost as big as the average human, wich also puts it around the same size as a female Pteranodon (minus the latter’s wingspan). Following recent research on pterosaurian competence underwater, here’s a female Pteranodon being harassed by two much more agile Hesperornis into giving up on her fish.

A figure-hugging sheer black and nude embellished cocktail dress worn by Marilyn Monroe while singing “I’m through with Love” atop a grand piano in Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot (United Artists, 1959). The dress is composed of black souffle and nude silk jersey embellished with columns of jet-like beads and sequins, scattered beaded butterfly appliques, and beaded fringes. The dress has a built-in bra and an illusion of a deep plunging back that was considered extremely daring for its’day. Hand finishing work is present to the interior. A Western Costume label inscribed “Marilyn Monroe 1575-1” is attached to the interior of the bra. Legend tells that Monroe had to be lifted to the piano for this scene as the dress was very form fitting. Some Like It Hot is considered to be one of the greatest film comedies of all time. It was voted as the top comedy film by the American Film Institute on their list on AFI’s 100 Years…100 Laughs poll in 2000. The film won the 1960 Golden Globe awards for Best Motion Picture-Comedy or Musical, Best Actress in Motion Picture-Comedy or Musical for Monroe, and Best Actor in Motion Picture-Comedy or Musical for Jack Lemmon. Orry-Kelly won the 1959 Academy Award for costume design for his work on this film. Some restoration work is present.