William and Mary

I spent Sunday in Williamsburg at William and Mary, helping to identify a number of bones found along the James River. The deposits along the James are mostly late Miocene Eastover Formation, and early Pliocene Sunken Meadow Member of the Yorktown Formation. Isolated bones (mostly whales) are frequently found along the river banks.

The specimen at the top of the page is part of the base of a baleen whale skull (mostly the basioccipital); this is a ventral view, with the front of the skull toward the top. The two knobs of bone are called the basioccipital crests.

The bone below is also from a baleen whale. These are the first two cervical (neck) vertebrae, fused together, seen from the front in the first image and from the top in the second:

This is a rather unusual pattern. Normally, baleen whales do not show any fusion of the cervical vertebrae. The main exceptions are the balaenids (right whales), which are known from the Sunken Meadow, but in balaenids all seven cervical vertebrae are fused together. I suspect this is more likely from a balaenopterid whale, with a pathological fusion of the two vertebrae.

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