Tooth from the James River

A few days ago Glenn Creggar emailed these pictures to me (thanks to Vicky Carwile for taking the photos.) Glenn found the specimen on a beach along the James River in Surry County, VA.

This looks like a tooth from a sperm whale. Sperm whales typically have large, conical teeth with prominent growth lines. The tooth doesn’t appear to have had enamel, in spite of the discoloration at the tip; this is also the case in many sperm whale species (including the living species.) Incidentally, the white-colored blunt tip is wear that occurred during the animal’s life, rather than postmortem damage. Apical wear such as this is common in many toothed whales, and especially in sperm whales.

Sediments along the James River in Surry County are primarily the Late Miocene (~7 million-year-old) Eastover Formation and the Early Pliocene 4.5 million-year-old Sunken Meadow Member (part of the Yorktown Formation.) Vertebrate fossils are more common in the Sunken Meadow, but the Eastover also produces skeletal remains. VMNH has several sperm whale teeth from the Eastover in our collections.

Thanks to Glenn for sending us photos of this cool specimen!

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