For the last few months we’ve been preparing one of the whale skulls from Carmel Church. This specimen was found immediately beside our Diorocetus specimen; the rib cages from the two whales overlapped each other. This was actually the first of four whale skulls collected from this particular pit, which only measures approximately 20 feet by 8 feet.
Preparation has been slow on this specimen, because it had weathered pretty heavily before it was collected. The skull is also badly crushed, with some elements shifted and rotated at odd angles relative to the rest of the skull (leading Brett to name it “Picasso”). Even so we have been making steady progress, and last week we removed the tympanic bullae (part of the ear region).
But there is a problem; we actually found three tympanic bullae, shown above. I don’t, however, think this is an aberrant whale that had three ears! The bulla on the left is fairly different in morphology from the other two, and belongs to a different whale (in spite of the fact that these three bones were all found actually touching each other). I believe the two bullae on the right are the ones that actually belong to this skull.
That doesn’t quite end the mystery, since all three of these bullae were found in a little pile on the dorsal side of the skull, sitting more or less above the right eye socket. I’m not sure how they got there, but in our Diorocetus specimen the earbones were also sitting in the vicinity of the right eye. Of course, we haven’t yet prepared the ventral side of “Picasso”, so it’s possible that the tympanic bullae are there, and that none of these bones belong to this whale.