Yet another fossil identification request, this time from Sean Moran, who is a student at the College of William and Mary. Sean found this vertebra in the Late Miocene Cobham Bay Member of the Eastover Formation in Williamsburg.
This vertebra appears to be from a billfish, in the family Istiophoridae. In fact, it is a close match to a vertebra from a blue marlin, Makaira nigricans, from the Early Pliocene Sunken Meadow Member at the Lee Creek Mine in North Carolina. That specimen was illustrated in the following reference:
Fierstine, H. L., 2001. Analysis and New Records of Billfish (Teleostei: Perciformes: Istiophoridae) from the Yorktown Formation, Early Pliocene of Eastern North Carolina at Lee Creek Mine, in C. E. Ray and D. J. Bohaska, eds., Geology and Paleontology of the Lee Creek Mine, North Carolina, III, Smithsonian Contributions to Paleobiology No.90, Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC, p. 21-69.
Billfish have a pretty good fossil record in the Eastover and Yorktown Formations in Virginia and North Carolina. Another commonly-preserved element is the long rostral bones (the “sword”), such as this example in the VMNH collections from Surry County.
Thanks to Sean for sending us the photo of his vertebra, and please keep sending us your images for identification. If nothing else, it keeps me on my toes!