The holotype of Taniwhasaurus mikasaensis (Squamata: Mosasauria) (MCM-M0009) is a partial skull and is registered as a Japan’s National Monument (JNM). Even though this specimen is one of the most famous vertebrate fossils in Japan, its JNM status renders it is very difficult to be handled by researchers, let alone museum visitors.
At the same time, “heritage tourism” has attracted attention in museum activities in recent years. Consequently, we have worked on utilization of multimedia data of MCM-M0009 as a new way to introduce this iconic specimen to the public in a much more interactive setting.
Of particular importance to be considered is the production cost of such multimedia data, for one, local museums typically operate on a tight budget. As such, this project was carried out with low-cost, readily available tools. The digital 3D model of MCM-M0009 was first generated using a movie application for a smart phone. With the resultant digital 3D model, a total of two downsized plastic models were then produced by a 3D printer for hands-on. Finally, an AR system was built. Anyone with a smart phone and/or an electronic tablet was able to use this system by connecting to the html site provided.
We assessed an educational effect of the new multimedia components of Taniwhasaurus mikasaensis in a workshop in July 2019. Questionnaire results gathered from 11 examinees of hands-on models and AR viewing of T. mikasaensis indicated that the new multimedia applications garnered users’ interest only in paleontological aspects of the specimen, but also in most advanced imaging technology. Our result hence revealed that incorporation of multimedia technologies in museum activities had unexpected an interdisciplinary effects.
Digital 3D data are deemed effective in preventing total losses of important specimens by disasters, for example, the locality of Utatsusaurus hataii damaged by 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.
Vertebrate burrows from the Mesozoic of North America have been scarcely known. We report two different burrows (burrows A and B) produced by small animals in the Lower Cretaceous (Albian–Cenomanian) Mussentuchit Member of the Cedar Mountain Formation, Utah, USA. The burrow-bearing bed of the Mussentuchit Member consists of poorly-drained paleosols, and the burrows are infilled with light-colored carbonate probably due to a rise in a regional water table. Both burrows were found in-situ and inclined downwards. The burrow A is 60 cm long, and terminated in an expanded distal chamber, whereas the burrow B is 100 cm long and branched, with some small expanded chambers in the middle of the tunnel. Both tunnels have the width to height ratio larger than 1.3. In the burrows, the external walls lack scratch marks, but do show localized, prominent bulges in the burrow A and divots at local expansions of the tunnel in the burrow B. These are unlike those reported from Triassic and Jurassic vertebrate burrows. The estimated weight of the excavators is 3.1 g for the burrow A and 6.8–17.8 g for the burrow B based on the area of each tunnel, indicating that both tracemakers were small animals. A bulge in the burrow B was possibly left by tip of the excavator’s head, as seen in the burrows of modern fossorial squamates. The discovery of a potential squamate burrow from the Cedar Mountain Formation of Utah is consistent with the oldest body fossils of skinks and snakes from the Early Cretaceous.