Sunday, 12 September 2010

Ancient Whale Skull Found in Calvert Cliffs - The Baltimore Sun

A whale skull has been exposed in the Calvert Cliffs in Maryland. The cliffs are often a site for these kinds of discoveries, and typically the Calvert Marine Museum collects three or four whale skeletons from the area per year.

"Only a small portion of the back of the skull is visible, said Stephen Godfrey of the Calvert Marine Museum in Solomons. But the Miocene-era fossil is probably 16 million years old, and likely belongs to an extinct family of small whales that swam in what were then Atlantic coastal waters teeming with marine life."

It is a smaller specimen, probably similar in size to today's minke whales.

The skull was discovered several months ago, but the excavation site was unstable and it could not be properly removed. Scientists covered the visible portions to protect it from amateurs, but when the skull was exposed again they decided to step in, stabilize the area and go ahead and remove the skull from the cliffs. Students from a Harrisburg, Pennsylvania university are helping with the dig.

"It's well and good to learn about evolution and read about it in a book," says Professor Robert E. Furey of the Harrisburg University of Science and Technology. But "when you go and remove the remains of animals this size, and see how much ground has been laid down on top of it, and how old it is, it brings home the concepts of evolution and deep time. I'm hoping they have some sort of epiphany."

Whales have not yet been found this far down in the cliff sediments, so it is possible that this will be the first specimen found of its kind.

Full article here (The Baltimore Sun)

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