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Meet the Scientist
  • Link to post on Instagram

Hi there! The name is Gabe Santos (@paleoparadox on Instagram), and I am a paleontologist from Los Angeles, California. I work at the @alfpaleo museum as the collections manager and outreach coordinator, but I also do research on extinct marine mammals! I am also the co-creator of

Science Snack

My favorite extinct marine mammal is the desmostylians! Ever heard of one? Well, imagine if you will a beautiful beach. Lumbering down the shore is something that looks like a hippo, is the size of an elephant, but chilling out in the ocean. That’s a desmostylian!

I love these derpy, extinct animals so much that they were the first animals I ever published on! My research project focused on describing a lower jaw of one of these animals, but this one was super weird. It didn’t have any teeth!

Desmos are known for their unique teeth that look like sushi rolls all bunched up together. In fact, it’s where they get their name (Desmo = bound, stylus =column). So for a specimen to not have teeth is super weird.

After looking at other desmo fossils from other museums, my

Sushi Science | Janelle Letzen | Paleo

co-authors and I came to the conclusion that the toothless desmo was an elderly desmo! Think like how some old people lose their teeth when they get older.


From our little project, we also were able to hypothesize what happens to desmo jaws and teeth as they grow up from babies to elderly adults! They basically go through four different stages and each stage is determined by what tooth has erupted from their jaws. The last stage is when desmos loss all their teeth!


I hope you all learned a little something about my weird and derpy desmostylians. If you want to talk paleontology, hit me up on my account! 


[1] Santos, G. P., Parham, J. F., & Beatty, B. L. (2016). New data on the ontogeny and senescence of Desmostylus (Desmostylia, Mammalia). Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 36(2), e1078344.

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