New Whale Species Discovered Under a Highway in California

Written by on February 20, 2013 in Marine Life, Whales & Dolphins
Highway running through Laguna Canyon.

Highway running through Laguna Canyon. Photo credit: Shannon1 at en.wikipedia.

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.

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Copyright © 2013 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of MarineScienceToday.com. She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .

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