4 million-year-old fossil skeleton of whale discovered by paleontologists in Santa Cruz

In Santa Cruz County of California, scientists have unearthed a massive fossilized skeleton from a construction site. Reportedly the fossil belongs to the whalebone whale or mysticete whale which is an ancestor of the modern day Baleen whale that is expected to have lived some 4 million years ago. The deposit measures 25 feet in length and is surprisingly stable with no fragments.  Including the skull, most of the parts are intact, as are the arm bones, shoulder blades, and most of the jaw.


The fossil skeleton was excavated from Scott Valley in one of its hills in a small city.  According to suggestions from scientists, the bones have likely been pushed towards the hillside by earthquakes and shift in tectonic plates over the millions of years that have gone by.  

The project was overseen by Scott Armstrong, who is a scientist from Paleo Solutions.  He added that in most places where a hill is seen, there is also a fault line in the vicinity that pushes the hill up.  Though these faults are relatively inactive, they have been lifting for several million or perhaps billion years.

The fossiled remains were discovered on 4th September and taken to the office of Paleo Solutions in Monrovia after an inventory was taken. The fossil bones are presently embedded in a rock making it pretty challenging to separate it without causing damage to this ancient find.

Armstrong also added that assuming the rocks to be softer in comparison to the rock, the task of separating the bones from the rock gets harder without the risk of breaking the soft bones.

According to local paleontologists, this type of recoveries are rare and useful to gain some insight into how the whales evolved.

Matthew Clapham, paleontologist from University of California, also added that in his opinion the fossils found along the coastline, commonly has only fragments and not a wholly undisturbed structure from head to toe. Therefore, the present find ranks as very impressive.

From their early ancestral groups to the specimen now found, plenty of whales were beginning to evolve.  From that angle too, the present discovery could be helpful in understanding many interesting things about how the whales have evolved over millions of years.