A highway-widening project in California’s Laguna Canyon turned into an archaeological dig when construction revealed fossils from hundreds of marine mammals.
The Laguna Canyon outcrop was excavated between 2000 and 2005 and the findings were presented this week at the AAAS annual meeting by Meredith Rivin, a paleontologist at the John D. Cooper Archaeological and Paleontological Center in Fullerton, California.
Scientists found 30 cetacean skulls along with many other ocean creatures that lived 17 million to 19 million years ago. Rivin said they found four new species of toothed baleen whale, which are now the youngest known toothed whales. Scientists used to think that particular type of whale had gone extinct five million years earlier.
Three of the four species belong to the genus Morawanocetus, which has been found before in Japan, but never in California. The fourth, which scientists are calling ‘Willy’, was much larger than the others, probably because it dined on sharks.
Rivin is still working on publishing her findings, but hopefully information on the Morawanocetus will be available by the end of the year. Since Willy is so unqiue, that part of the research will take a bit longer.
To learn more:
- Check out this article from ScienceNow: New Whale Species Unearthed in California Highway Dig
- Read about Rivin’s presentation at the AAAS meeting
- Find out about a similar event in the Chilean Desert: Chilean Fossil Site Rich with Discoveries—and Mysteries
Copyright © 2013 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.