4 Million Year Old Whale Fossil Discovered in Construction Site

September 30, 2015 | Sarah Tse

Humpback Whale Skeleton
Photo credit: Sklmsta / Wikipedia

While digging through a housing development site in Santa Cruz, California, construction vehicles detected a nearly intact whale fossil almost 25 feet long.

It's a good thing this construction project hired an archaeological consulting firm — otherwise they would have plowed right through this incredible fossil. The Los Angeles-based Paleo Solutions company had determined that the site had potential for a marvelous find and assigned a monitor to follow the progress of construction vehicles. Sure enough, the monitor detected these prehistoric bones on September 4th, and halted construction to begin excavating the discovery. 

Two paleontologists and an archaeologists got to work digging out the fossil on the 17th. They were able to recover pieces of the skull, much of the jaw, shoulder blades, arm bones, and vertebrae of the largely intact skeleton, estimated to be 25 feet long. To facilitate transportation, the scientists encased the bones in plaster and will finish separating fossil from rock at Paleo Solutions's office. 

According to Scott Armstrong, a paleontologist from Paleo Solutions, the bones ended up in the Scotts Valley region of Santa Cruz County after millions of years of earthquakes and shifting tectonic plates. The fossil belongs to an ancestor of the modern baleen whale family, which includes blue whales and humpback whales. The startling integrity of the skeleton will provide insight into the evolutionary history of whales and their ancestors, especially during the time period this fossil comes from.

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