4-million-year-old whale fossil found in Santa Cruz County


The 4-million-year-old fossilized skeleton of whale has been excavated at a construction site in Santa Cruz County.

The fossil, relatively intact and estimated to be about 25 feet long, was found Sept. 4 by a paleontologist assigned to monitor a housing development in Scotts Valley, according to the Santa Cruz Sentinel (http://bayareane.ws/1j0DHba).

The remains belong to a mysticete whale, an ancestor to the baleen whale, said Scott Armstrong, a scientist with Paleo Solutions, a Los Angeles County-based archaeological consulting service.

Pieces of the skull, much of the jaw, shoulder blades, arm bones and vertebrae were found.

The bones made their way into the hills through earthquakes and shifting of tectonic plates, Armstrong told the newspaper.

“Most places where you see a hill, somewhere there’s a fault line nearby pushing it up,” he said. “They’re relatively inactive faults. But yeah, it’s from lifting thousands, maybe millions of years ago.”

The excavation process began Thursday, as workers using hoes, shovels, brooms and smaller tools slowly unearthed the ancient remains.

Scientists encased the bones in plaster to preserve the fossil’s integrity and make transport easier. It will travel to the Monrovia offices of Paleo Solutions for further research.

Matthew Clapham, a paleontologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, said the Scotts Valley find is rare because of how intact the bones are.

“I think of the fossils you get along the coastline, it’s more common to get a piece of the skull or the brain case or some bones,” Clapham told the Sentinel. “So this sounds like it’s a very impressive find.”

In 2012, a fossilized skeleton of a small whale was uncovered in nearby Pleasure Point.




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