Even with a long lunch today (spent watching the US women’s basketball team defeat Croatia in the first round of the Olympics) we still spent 9 hours on site today. This morning we flipped our second jacket and removed the second whale caudal vertebrae exposed yesterday on the west side of the pit (above, in lateral view). Once the vertebra came out, though, it got strange:
This is an anterior view. The front right corner of the vertebra is crushed, with a significant part of the bone apparently missing. Partially filling the resultant hole is a fragile but apparently undamaged shark vertebra. The damaged area was the lowest point of the whale vertebra as it lay in the ground.
Beneath that was another surprise:
That’s a large shark tooth, sticking straight up in the sediment. While this is a dramatic example, we fairly commonly find teeth sitting up like this, or at other strange angles. This is one of the unusual features of Carmel Church that distinguishes it from other marine bonebeds such as Sharktooth Hill, in which the teeth are usually lying flat.
Here’s the same tooth after removal:
The tooth was sticking up under the damaged part of the whale vertebra, and the broken tooth tip makes it tempting to suggest that the shark caused the vertebral damage while biting. However, while we have abundant evidence of bite marks from Carmel Church, I don’t think this is an example. More likely the tooth was sticking up in the sediment and the bone landed on top of it, subsequently being crushed over the tooth as it was buried. The only problem with this idea is the pesky shark vertebra…
We spent much of the rest of the day widening the pit and removing overburden, so we only found limited additional bones in the afternoon. These included a vertebral epiphysis and several bones from bony fish. We again had thunderstorms roll in late in the day, and closed the pit down just ahead of the rain. The storms have now passed, and we should be back on site in the morning.