Whether or not you’re taking a Texans cheerleader, have a great prom in three easy steps

This Saturday, HMNS is hosting the prom for Crosby High School — and one student is in for an especially memorable night. Most high school football players dream big and take a cheerleader to their prom (some take it uber-seriously and hold prom drafts…), but one local teen has taken prom-posals to the next level.

Mike Ramirez, 17, reached out to Houston Texans cheerleader Caitlyn Beth on Twitter, asking if she’d go with him to prom if he got 10,000 retweets. She accepted and within 24 hours, not only had he met the goal — he’d surpassed it!

We’d like to say congratulations to Mike on your prom-Twitter-swag and we hope that you and Caitlyn will have a great time together!

Now, all of this prom talk got me thinking: My prom seems to have happened in a simpler time. With these extravagant prom-posals happening everywhere, I wondered what else might be changing about prom.

So I did some research and I’ve synthesized every prom-advice guide into three simple steps, guaranteed to ensure that your prom is awesome.


It could be literally anyone or anything! Now if you’re dating someone, it’s probably a bad move to ask someone else to prom. But if you’re single, the world is your oyster! Ask a friend! Ask your grandma! Bring a pet! Or, if you really wanna turn heads, bring a cardboard cutout of a celebrity!


Gown, tux, whatever – just have something on. You’ll also probably want to coordinate with your date (see step 1), but don’t shy away from color!.



You’re almost there! Now all you have to do is get there.

There you go — the secrets to a great prom revealed! And happy prom night to everyone at Crosby High School, and we hope you have a great time at HMNS.

ALSO, bonus points for anyone who gets this for their date:

The Bakker Beat: The Texans loss in Monday Night Football delivers a big, wet kiss on our Permian cheekbone

(Plus, a key to the Fin-back Zombie Mystery!)

Where were you guys during the Texans-Patriots game on Monday Night Football?  Your curator of paleontology was hunched over his best microscope, looking up every 45 seconds to check out the action on his black-and-white Zenith television, a full 16 inches across the picture tube.

Of course I was hurling scholarly imprecations at the screen: “Pass, rush, PASSSS RUSHHHH!!!!! Hit ‘em in the infundibulum!!”

Three TDs in 19 minutes from Tom Terrific??? Groan.

As our humiliation unfolded, I had one consolation. Under the ‘scope was an unexpected delight, a Happy Holidays kiss on the cheek from the Permian Red Beds of Seymour, Texas. It was the latest discovery in our five-year analysis of violence among our ancestors 285 million years ago.

I always have the TV on when doing delicate fossil-cleaning with a high-power ‘scope. That’s because, for best eye health, you must look away from the fossil and focus on something a dozen feet away. The look-away is good exercise for your eye-focusing muscles. I know too many colleagues who became severely near-sighted after 40 years of ‘scope work.

Anyway, late in the second quarter I noticed something weird on the petrified rear cheekbone I was cleaning. Known technically as a “squamosal”, the rear cheek bone is a keystone element in skulls — our skulls and those of our antecedents, the fin-back reptile Dimetrodon. Squamosals make the lower-rear corner of the skull — check out this diagram that shows the bone in a mean guard dog and a paleo department volunteer. If you tap your cheek just behind the eye, you’ll be in touch with your squamosal.

cb mammal-one-holers labelF color


In Dimetrodon, the squamosal ties the jaw-joint bone, the quadrate, into the rest of the skull. Observe this diagram.

cb ddon willi squam D. limb label copy

In our human skulls, too, the squamosal performs a unique role in the jaw action: the quadrate disappears and the squamosal bone forms the upper jaw joint where the lower jaw attaches. Medical doctors call this region the “temporal-mandibular joint,” or “TMJ,” and it’s the locus of chronic pain if your grind your teeth during Texans games.

The Dimetrodon squamosal proves that it is a human ancestor, even though in most ways this fin-back is more primitive than a lizard. In our human skulls, the squamosal makes the rear rim of the temporal fenestra, an opening behind the eye. Powerful jaw muscles used for chewing attach to the inner edges of the fenestra rim.Try this: bite down hard on some West Texas jerky. Touch your temporal fenestra with you index finger. You’ll feel the jaw muscles bulging. All mammals have a temporal fenestra built just like Dimetrodon’s. Dinosaurs, lizards, snakes and all other vertebrates don’t have this osteological badge of the Mammalia. Dimetrodon and its kin evolved the fenestra late in the Coal Age and eventually passed it down to all us furry mammals, from possums to gorillas and bats to blue whales.

But back to the Texans and Patriots. After Brady’s third scoring toss, I was comforted by the fact that this particular D’don squamosal was well-preserved. Almost a miracle, because when I saw it last, the bone and the rock it was in were sodden with rain water. Water is the enemy of delicate bones. Our Permian quarry is made up of mudstone, layers of clay-rich sediment that accumulated on the bottom of a pond in an ox-bow. When dry and fresh, the Permian mudstones are so hard that cold-chisels are required. But when water seeps in, the clay minerals get squishy and messy. The bones split and splinter; some bones actually dissolve.

The squamosal in question had been victimized by a sneak attack of ground water. When the squamosal was first discovered and still embedded in rock, associate curator of paleontology David Temple and I had dug drainage trenches all around the bone and then covered the specimen with a tarp to protect it from the thunderstorm we could see coming. After the rain stopped, we lifted the tarp. The top of the rock was dry, but then we saw water percolating up from below the bone. Rain water had soaked into a hill that rose 10 feet above the level of the quarry. The water then traveled  through the red rock layers. Naturally, the water flowed down from the hill until it hit a hard layer, a dense blue limestone that made the floor of our quarry.

Our skeleton was in the red mudstone a foot above that limestone. After the rain stopped falling, the rain water in the rock kept flowing down and across the hard layer, through the red sediment. The flow then had enough energy to come up through a foot of mudstone and drown our specimen. Here’s a diagram of how the seepage works. (By the way — we’re not kidding that you must avoid red harvester ants — one of our crew was swarmed by these hazardous haploids and got 10 bites and multiple stings. Each ant grabs your skin in its vice-like jaws and then proceeds to rotate its rear end in a semicircle, stabbing with its stinger. Our victim swears that the pain is worse than wasp stings. Worse than childbirth!  She is still all itchy and scratchy two weeks after the attack.)

cb ddon willi drowningFFF copy

We did the emergency glue drill, which involves dumping low-velocity super glue on the wet specimen. Super-glue hardens moist rock and bone.Then we waited. A year later, we removed the block of rock inside a coating of aluminum foil and plaster. I had little hope of the squamosal surviving.

Another year went by and I opened the block, during that now-infamous Monday night. Surprise! The squamosal was 95 percent intact. The glue drill had succeeded!

It got better. In the third quarter, when our offense showed some sign of life, I spotted a strange groove in the squamosal just below the temporal fenestra.  I cranked the ‘scope up to maximum power and teased away flecks of rock with a fine steel needle.

Was the mystery a channel for an artery? No — there is no blood vessel in this part of the cheek in any vertebrate skull.  A nerve?  No. Towards the end of the sad, sad fourth quarter, the the bone was fully cleaned of rock. The groove showed raised ridges on both sides, as if a miniature bulldozer had plowed up the depression. Check out this close-up.

cb ddon willi squam Ddon bite bw

Bulldozers of any size had not evolved in the Permian, but there was one thing that could gouge a groove in bone. A Dimetrodon fang!  The shape of the groove matched the geometry of a big killing tooth from the front of the mouth in a large D’don.

Our fin-back had been bitten, hard, by another fin-back. Intraspecific violence, as the PhDs say. Cannibalism! Which is how we return to our Dimetrodon Zombie question.  It turns out that the squamosal belongs to the same skull that shows bite marks on the braincase. Remember our last post — it makes no sense for a carnivorous Permian reptile to bite at the brain of a Dimetrodon. There is simply not enough brain-meat to be worth the trouble. Now we had evidence that the same victim had been bitten along the temporal fenestra.

Why bite the squamosal here? The correct answer will lead you to getting the answer to why the cannibal Dimetrodon had bitten the bones around the brain. Get both questions answered, and you’ll discover that our ancestor Dimetrodon was a very clever, very efficient predator.

Meet TORO and the Houston Texans cheerleaders at HMNS Sugar Land this weekend — for FREE!

Conservation Quest, sponsored by Reliant, An NRG Company and HMNS Sugar Land’s newest exhibition, is bringing you a day of learning and fun this Saturday afternoon.

Meet TORO, the official mascot of the Houston Texans, hobnob with the lovely Houston Texans cheerleaders and learn about making smart energy choices with Conservation Quest. Sponsored by Reliant, this interactive special exhibition teaches kids all about energy — where it comes from, how we use it and why it’s so important to use it wisely.

Conservation Quest™We’ll be bringing out our mobile Smart House, while indoors the Reliant Kids Zone will feature an interactive, educational computer game, a photo booth, a balloon artist and more.

Tickets include a BBQ lunch, ice cream sundae bar, an open wine and beer bar for the grown folk — plus face-painting for the kiddos!

What: Conservation Quest + Reliant Museum Day Event
When: Saturday, Oct. 6 from 2 to 5 p.m.
Where: HMNS at Sugar Land
How much: FREE for members; $5 for the general public