Tags: rare | whale | fossil | natural history museum

Rare Whale Fossil Exhumed From California Backyard, Sent to Museum

By    |   Tuesday, 05 Aug 2014 07:31 AM

A rare whale fossil originally discovered by a teenager behind his house in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, nearly 40 years ago was taken from its hillside resting place last week and transported to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles by the local sheriff's department.

Crews worked Friday to pull the 1,000-pound rock with fossilized fragments of the whale's jaw, skull, and baleen from the hill. Fossilized baleen whales — which use soft tissue-like filaments to filter their food — are extremely rare, museum officials told the Los Angeles Times, noting that there are as few as 20 in existence.

Gary Johnson was just 17 when he first contacted the museum about his find in 1978, but officials didn’t have the resources back then to excavate the 16 million-year-old remains.

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"Johnson and a few friends had placed the rock on log rollers and, over the course of days and feet at a time, moved it over to the base of the incline — just off a steep staircase leading to his parents' backyard," the Los Angeles Times reported. "And there it rested, largely undisturbed, for 35 years."

Now 53, Johnson told The Associated Press that he remembered his discovery in January after hearing about a fossilized sperm whale that was recovered at a nearby school. He contacted the museum again and, this time, there was a plan.

Volunteers from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department search-and-rescue team used a series of pulleys and a steel trolley to get the heavy rock up a steep slope so it could be taken to the museum.

"I thought, maybe my whale is somehow associated [with the whale found in January]," Johnson, who works as a cartoonist and art director, told the AP.

Natural History Museum paleontologist Howell Thomas told reporters it was a challenge to get the boulder from its location, 25 miles southwest of downtown Los Angeles, to the museum. He said the search-and-rescue team provided the right expertise, since they were trained in rescuing hikers out of difficult places.

He told the Times that the whale's rare discovery gives researchers a real window in what life was like in the area millions of years ago.

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A rare whale fossil originally discovered by a teenager behind his house in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, nearly 40 years ago was taken from its hillside resting place last week and transported to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles by the local sheriff's department.
rare, whale, fossil, natural history museum
408
2014-31-05
Tuesday, 05 Aug 2014 07:31 AM
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