November 18, 2012
Surfers Find Pliocene-Era Whale Fossils In California
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
Surfers in Northern California usually aren't happy to see water levels dropping below normal levels, but last week might be an exception, as an abnormally low tide helped one group uncover a small, prehistoric skeleton at the base of a cliff near Pleasure Point in Santa Cruz county.
According to Joshua Gardner of ABC News, the surfers discovered a set of fossilized vertebrae Thursday at "a rocky outcrop that is usually covered by water, even at low tide." One of them, identified by Gardner only as "Donkahones," took a photograph of the approximately six to eight foot set of bones and posted them online.
The surfer initially believed that the fossils belonged to a dinosaur, but Gary Griggs, director of the University of California, Santa Cruz Institute of Marine Sciences, told ABC News that the vertebrae were most likely "from an extinct whale species, probably one that looked a lot like whales today."
Griggs added that the fossils indicate that the creature was likely between 10 and 20 foot long and, that it most likely lived during the Pliocene era, making the fossils approximately three to five million years old.
The bones were found near the Pleasure Point home of surf legend Jack O'Neill, KSBW.com's Amy Larson reported on Friday. O'Neill told Jason Hoppin of the Santa Cruz Sentinel that he had lived at that residence for more than four decades and had never seen the fossils prior to last week.
"It is the second major find of whale bones in the past three years," Hoppin said. "In 2009, a set of bones was excavated from within the cliffs, which are part of the Purisima Formation and date at least to the Pliocene epoch, during work on the armoring of the East Cliff bluffs. A mold of those bones were later imprinted into a concrete bench in the newly renovated Pleasure Point Park."
"Because of its location in the water, the bones are not likely to be excavated," added Lori Preuitt of NBC Bay Area. "More of the creature is expected to be revealed over time, but experts are asking people to leave the bones as they lie“¦ The next lower than normal tide is not until mid-December. That is the next time the fossil is expected to give a good showing."