Friday, April 21, 2006

I got cancer at the beach

I took the tooth to Berkeley to get an ID from people who actually know they're marine critters. Somewhere along the way, I started to have doubts that it was a tooth. For one thing, the base is almost perfectly rectangular, and teeth tend to have round roots. For another, it seemed to be made of something much lighter than enamel.

Jane Mason, the UCMP's preparator, said it was probably a claw from a big crustacean.

Crissy Huffard, former fellow grad student, recent Ph.D., and expert on all things tentacled and horrible (try Googling "walktopus") was able to narrow it down considerably. My "sea lion tooth" is the mobile outer crushing claw of a crab in the genus Cancer. The archetypal crab, the one in the zodiac, the one you've eaten at Long John Silver's and Red Lobster.

Perhaps not as exciting as a giant tooth. Definitely a warning talisman against letting wishes and emotion affect one's identifications (cryptozoology crowd, are you listening?). But still the coolest thing I ever found on a beach.

The coolest pocketable thing, anyway. This dead sea lion at Morro Bay was pretty sweet.


2 Comments:

Blogger Darren Naish said...

I hope you don't feel silly for making such an amazing mistake. I used to routinely visit the shingle beaches of Lee-on-Solent (here in Hampshire, England) to collect the Eocene ray and shark teeth that wash up there (due to submerged Bartonian strata just offshore). One day I was amazed to discover several coarsely serrated subconical teeth, the like of which I'd never seen (or found there) before. Something was seriously amiss though, as they were entirely hollow. Late-surviving marine troodontids? A hitherto undiscovered taxon of venomous pinniped?

No, crab claws. The mobile part of the pincer tends to break off, and presto, pseudo-tooth.

I was 18 years old when I made this horrendous gaff however... :)

1:14 PM  
Blogger Dr. Vector said...

"I hope you don't feel silly for making such an amazing mistake."

Very nicely done.

I'll try not to feel insecure about my tiny little penis, while I'm at it. Nor will I feel guilty about running over that nun with the kindergarteners.

1:28 AM  

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