The specimen shown above is hiding away in our collections storage room. It’s a fragment of the skull from a medium-sized dolphin in the Family Kentriodontidae. Kentriodontids are found worldwide in Miocene deposits, and there are several species found in the Calvert Formation (we have at least two from Carmel Church).
This specimen was found in Bed 14 of the Calvert Formation in Westmoreland County along the banks of the Potomac River. The initial discovery was the lower jaw:
Most excavations have a story behind them; this one involves a stray dog and a very dead, very rotten fish. The dog, a beautiful and friendly Chesapeake Bay retriever, ran down to the beach to see what we were doing. A few minutes later our digging was interrupted by a gut-wrenching odor wafting over us, and we turned to see the dog gulping down a fish. It turns out that there are some things that even a dog’s stomach can’t handle, and the fish (more goo than fish) was promptly thrown up. At that point we discovered that the only thing that smells worse than a rotten fish is a thrown-up rotten fish (“gastric ejecta”, as Nick Fraser likes to refer to it). The dog, of course, saw this as simply a second serving and ate it again. We had to stop digging for about 10 minutes and move upwind until the air cleared.
There are all kinds of hazards in an excavation.
Tomorrow I return to Carmel Church to help with the installation of the new exhibit at the visitors’ center. For anyone in the area, the center will open to the public this Saturday, November 22, at 1:30 pm; I hope to see you there!