A huge digging project during the widening of Laguna Canyon Road in Laguna Beach has yielded a few fascinating discoveries.
Among them: some previously unknown species of ancient toothed baleen whales.
Over the weekend, paleontologist Meredith Rivin of Fullerton's John D. Cooper Archaeological and Paleontological Center presented her fossil findings during the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Boston. You can check out the complete story here on the ScienceNOW website, but here's an excerpt:
The Laguna Canyon outcrop, excavated between 2000 and 2005, turned out to be a treasure trove containing hundreds of marine mammals that lived 17 million to 19 million years ago. It included 30 cetacean skulls as well as an abundance of other ocean dwellers such as sharks, says Rivin, who studies the fossil record of toothed baleen whales. Among those finds, she says, were four newly identified species of toothed baleen whale—a type of whale that scientists thought had gone extinct 5 million years earlier.
But the coolest/scariest/awesomest thing about the find has to be the wear marks on one of the whale teeth. Based on the pattern, Rivin says, the whale's favorite snack may have been ... sharks.
Dude! Now those were some whales you didn't want to mess with.