New whale species discovered under highway
In California, a road crew — which, according to state law, must for real include an on-site paleontologist and an archaeologist — dug up a boneyard of hundreds of marine mammals, ScienceNOW reports. Among those bones, they came up 30 whale skulls. And four of those skulls belong to “four newly identified species of toothed baleen whale — a type of whale that scientists thought had gone extinct 5 million years earlier.”
The new fossils date to 17 to 19 million years ago, or the early-mid Miocene epoch, making them the youngest known toothed whales. Three of the fossils belong to the genus Morawanocetus, which is familiar to paleontologists studying whale fossils from Japan, but hadn’t been seen before in California.
The fourth new species was a different genus and was bigger than whales this old are expected to be. And, like a boss, it ate sharks.
Meredith Rivin, the paleontologist who’s been analyzing these fossils, is still working on an official paper presenting her findings, but we’re already pretty sure this is the best possible result of digging a new highway.
New Whale Species Unearthed in California Highway Dig, ScienceNOW.