Live From The Field: Willie The Dimetrodon

Today’s post is from Michele Whisenhunt, a volunteer on the Museum’s paleontology team. She’ll be sharing photos with us while the team is at the Black Hills Institute, prepping Willie, the Dimetrodon the team discovered.

"Twisted Willi"

Was this in his life or after death?

Did these spines twist while Willi was alive or was it the geologic pressure that caused the twisting?

Was Willi the James Dean of his time? Would this good-looking fin catch a girl or would it keep him warm on cold nights?

These are the things we ponder in the prep lab of Black Hills Institute of Hill City, South Dakota as we explore the twisted spines of this Dimetrodon. The fin, a fixed sail of nerves, blood vessels, and skin that would have controlled body temperature, attract a mate, or intimidate other males.

The evidence shows that Willi was “twisted” in his lifetime. The sediment where Willi was found shows the water was slow moving and therefore would not have caused this deformity after he died.

Also, the fact that his skeleton is so well articulated it shows we are seeing him in his true form.

Tomorrow, we dig into two new jackets found near Willi both of which contain the bones of other species.

"Twisted Willi"

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