|Paleo Discoveries' Newsletter|| Fall 2010|
Happy Fall, fossil friends! As you may have already guessed, we're featuring fossil whales in this month's issue.
Also on tap are river collecting news, Megalodon teeth, and we'll profile some of the books available on our website store. BTW, if you have a comment or suggestion for us (me) about what you want to see in upcoming newsletters, let me know!
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News- The Peace River Times|
Well, the Florida summer was hot and very dry this year until late Aug., then the rains came. And came some more. As of today 9/17, the Peace River water level is still pretty high but starting to fall as the rains slow down. Things always have a way of evening out, don't they? The Florida dry season starts soon however and when it does, expect some great collecting for the early birds who collect first. The flipside of the high sustained water levels is a lot of fossils newly flushed out from the bottom and edges of the river.
|Fossil Animals of the Quarter- Whales|
The picture at the top of this newsletter shows two types of whales that are probably familiar to most people, a sperm whale at top and below it a baleen whale. If you really know your fossils, you might know the two animals below them are whales as well- at least ancestral whales. The most recent evidence shows whales evolved from 4-legged land animals to a life completely in the sea. Georgiacetus in the photo is a transitional animal halfway adapted to life in the sea; their fossils are more than 45 million years old. Dorudon above it is slightly more recent at 40 million or so.
Toothed whales (such as sperm whales) are grouped as odontocetes while baleen whales are known as mysticetes. Odontocetes are more common and include dolphins, porpoises, orcas, belugas and pilot whales among others. Mysticetes can lay claim to the largest animal that ever lived, the blue whale.
Whales very similar to today's whales began evolving approx. 20 million years ago but were generally smaller, they attained their very large size only within the last few million years.
Fossil whale remains most commonly found in coastal areas are pictured below. On occasion, an entire skeleton can turn up, but it's generally a rare event. The fossils pictured were found in the Peace River and the Lee Creek mine in Aurora, NC and range in age from 20 million to 5 million years old.
Baleen Whale lower jaw section Sperm Whale Teeth Auditory Bulla (Inner Ear Bone)
Whale phalange (finger bone) Whale vertebra