Legos and Clay and Bones … Make Molds!

Yesterday in the lab we were playing with (read: working with) Legos and clay. In the Burpee lab we use Legos and clay to help us make molds of bones. These molds can be used to create casts, or replicas, of whole or partial specimens. This is particularly useful if we need to take a real specimen or bone off of display – instead of leaving an empty space in the exhibit, we can put the cast replica out in its place.

Stangerochapsa vertebrae in a half mold.

These are Ernie’s first four vertebrae in half of a two-part mold. The wood dowels are there so that when the other half of the mold is created we can still fill the mold to make a cast replica. Legos make up the walls of the mold, and clay (removed in this picture) is what the exposed half of the vertebrae used to be submerged in.

Yesterday we were specifically making molds of vertebrae from an extinct alligatoroid called Stangerochampsa sp. (nicknamed “Ernie”) that was discovered in Montana in 2008. Ernie” will be part of the new Homer exhibit. So far we’ve made molds and casts of “Ernie’s” scutes, and most of his forelimb and hindlimb material.Today we’ll pour the other half of this mold, and next week we will be able to make casts of these vertebrae to check how good our mold is.

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