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Whale Fossils in Mountains: How Did Million-Year-Old Bones End Up There?

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By    |   Tuesday, 22 Sep 2015 11:20 AM

A whale fossil was found in the upland mountain slope town of Scotts Valley in California this month, and archaeologists believe the bones could be nearly 4 million years old.

The Sept. 4 discovery brought construction on a housing development in the town, located 26 miles southwest of San Jose, to a standstill while Los Angeles-based Paleo Solutions uncovered the fossil, the Santa Cruz Sentinel reported.

Scott Armstrong, a paleontologist with Paleo Solutions, told the newspaper that the fossils merged into the hills after more than a million years of earthquakes and tectonic plate shifts.

"On some project sites, if a rock unit is known to have a high potential to produce it, then it's typically outlined in the planning process and environmental impact report," Armstrong said.

"Most places where you see a hill, somewhere there's a fault line nearby pushing it up. They're relatively inactive faults. But yeah, it's from lifting thousands, maybe millions of years ago," he continued.

According to KNTV, the fossil appeared to be about 25 feet long and encased in rock. Armstrong said the archeologists will keep it encased in rock as they remove it from the area.

"[It's a] slice of time and space that hasn't really been looked at," he told KNTV, adding that the fossil was mostly intact, a rare find for scientists. "The best way to transport it is to leave it in the sediment."

Matthew Clapham, a paleontologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, told the Sentinel it is not uncommon to find marine fossils in Scott Valley like shark teeth, but said the current find adds to scientists' knowledge of whales.

"That's an interesting time in whale evolution," he said. "A lot of whales were starting to evolve from their early ancestral group so this specimen, depending on how complete it is, could say a lot of interesting things about the evolution of whales."

Armstrong told KNTV that the fossil will eventually be prepared to be displayed in a museum.

United Press International reported that this marked the second excavation
Paleo Solutions has been involved with in California. The news wire service stated that the service was called upon to help excavate an ancient ground sloth in Beaumont earlier this year.

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A whale fossil was found in the upland mountain slope town of Scotts Valley in California this month, and archaeologists believe the bones could be nearly 4 million years old.
whale, fossils, mountains, california
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2015-20-22
Tuesday, 22 Sep 2015 11:20 AM
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