"Bizarre and unusual" was the theme for the Berkeley Natural History Museum (BNHM) collaborative display on Cal Day, Saturday, April 12. Representatives from the UCMP, Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, Essig Museum of Entomology, UC Botanical Garden, and the University and Jepson Herbaria pulled some strange and just plain cool specimens from their collections for the many Bay Area residents who flock to Berkeley for this annual campus-wide open house.
UCMP's contribution to the courtyard display included the heavily clawed forefoot of an extinct giant sloth and a specimen of carrier shell. The sloth had to walk on the sides of its feet because the long claws prevented the animal from putting them flat on the ground. The carrier shell, a xenophorid marine gastropod, is unusual in that it cements other shells and objects to the edge of its own shell as it grows.
Down in the "Fishbowl," UCMP's glass-walled meeting room, the museum addressed the question "What is a Fossil?" with examples of different kinds of fossil preservation, some pseudofossil specimens, and select images of interestingly shaped rocks that are sent to the museum by people thinking that they've discovered a fossil. Members of paleobotanist Cindy Looy's lab were also on hand to discuss their current research and the questions they're trying to answer.
A new event, organized and emceed by the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology's Monica Albe, was a game show called "Science in Disguise." The audience is asked to identify who, amongst a panel of scientists, has given the correct answers to a series of science trivia questions. UCMP grad students Whitney Reiner, Jessie Atterholt, and Ashley Poust were panelists.
It wouldn't be a proper Cal Day without "Fun With Fossils," the always popular activity where kids, both young and old, search for small Cretaceous bones, teeth, and fish scales in fossil-rich matrix collected from eastern Montana. Another UCMP Cal Day mainstay is the tours of the collections. During the day, 11 half-hour tours are conducted through the museum's normally off-limits research collections for those motivated people who come early to snatch up the free tickets. UCMP, as is its custom, also sold tee shirts. Both T. rex and Smilodon were back but this year's new design featured a trilobite.
Three talks were presented this year. Grad student Jenna Judge began the day talking about the marine organisms that take up residence on waterlogged wood at the bottom of the ocean. She was followed by grad student Lindsey Dougherty who has been studying Ctenoides ales, often called the "disco" clam because of its unusual ability to flash light. Professor Kevin Padian, giving his third Cal Day talk in as many years, entertained visitors with the irresistible "Why do dinosaurs have such weird heads?"
All in all, it was another hectic but satisfying Cal Day!