Ancient whale skull
- MSNBC - Ancient whale skull left in hurricane's wake
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> MSNBC - Ancient whale skull left in hurricane's wake************
Ancient whale skull left in hurricane's wake
Sleuth finds 8-million-year-old fossil on Maryland coast
Matt Houston / AP
Jeff DiMeglio talks about the remains of an 8-million-year-old whale fossil=
Â Thursday at the Calvert Marine Museum in Solomons, Md. DiMeglio discovered=
the bones in September after Hurricane Isabel eroded the coastline. In the =
background is the museum's curator of paleontology, Stephen Godfrey, who was=
called to excavate the fossil.
By By Stephen Manning
The Associated Press
SOLOMONS, Md. - Days after Hurricane Isabel ravaged the cliffs lining St. M=
aryâs River last year, Jeff DiMeglio and his girlfriend went scouring for =
shark teeth and found what DiMeglio, an experienced fossil hunter, recognize=
d as the rib of a whale.
He immediately covered the findings and contacted a museum. Heavy erosion f=
rom the storm had unearthed the complete fossilized skull of what paleontolo=
gists say was an 8-million-year-old whale.
The find is important because little is known about whales of that era, sai=
d Stephen Godfrey, curator of paleontology for the Calvert Marine Museum.
The remains were shown to the media Thursday at the museum, where scientist=
s are carefully chipping away sediment around the 5Â½-foot skull with hopes =
of one day putting it on display.
Disaster and opportunity
The hurricane that unearthed the fossil last September was Marylandâs wor=
st-ever natural disaster, blamed for dozens of deaths and costing the state =
and local governments at least $275 million.
Isabelâs surge collapsed bulkheads and seawalls, exposing parts of shorel=
Matt Houston / AP
The embedded ribs of an 8-million-year-old whale fossil are on display at t=
he Calvert Marine Museum in Solomons, Md.
Most residents were dismayed by the erosion. Not Godfrey: Southern Maryland=
âs cliffs that harbor a rich source of marine fossils, including thousands=
of prehistoric shark teeth and whale bones.
There is some angst watching the cliffs disappear, but itâs great for pal=
eontology,â he said.
To free the fossil from the ground, scientists swathed it in burlap and pla=
ster-of-paris, creating a hard cast, then called on the Patuxent Naval Air S=
tation. A search-and-rescue team rappelled from a helicopter, attached the f=
ossil to a cable and flew it out.
Scientists couldnât find the spine of the 18-foot whale but did recover s=
ome vertebrae, a neck bone, a fin and a shoulder blade.
How the whale lived and died
The fossil was found in an area where the water would have been shallow, an=
d he believes the whale lived at a time when warm temperatures spread across=
the Atlantic Ocean.
Godfrey thinks it was a baleen whale, but he doesnât know if it was an an=
cestor of modern baleen whales, like the humpback, or part of an extinct lin=
There are a few clues to how it may have died. Teeth marks score part of th=
e bone, and the fossilized teeth of giant mako and cow sharks also were foun=
d among the bones.
2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.