Today we continued trying to isolate the larger bones we’ve found over the last few days. This is a slow process at Carmel Church, because there are always so many small bones and teeth that turn up in the way. For example, while digging trenches Tim removed a shell fragment from the sea turtle Syllomus (above) while Courtland found the tiny fish vertebra shown below.
I had the same problem (if you can consider too many bones a problem), and had to take time to remove this small shark vertebra:
One of the things we’re trying to trench around is the skull fragment we found yesterday. Here’s that area as it looked late in the afternoon:
And here’s the marked up version:
Blue is the skull fragment, red are other whale bones, and green are unidentified bones (which I think are all fish).
We’ve learned quite a lot about this bone today, starting with the fact that it is, indeed, part of a skull. The skull is upside down, so we can see both occipital condyles and part of the basioccipital, with at least one low basioccipital crest. The size of the crest makes me think this is a mysticete rather than an odontocete. It’s quite small for a mysticete, comparable in size to “Blossom“, so it’s not out of the question that this could be another baby. It appears that the rest of the skull is missing; at least we haven’t found more of it yet. In fact, there’s a rib or some other bone jammed into the periotic fossa, where the earbones should be sitting.
We made another interesting discovery today. As we followed the bones into the wall, there was a small patch of weathered Calvert Formation that we had bypassed. This morning we removed that patch, just to make sure we hadn’t missed anything, and found two small odontocete vertebrae:
If you’ve been following us the whole trip, you may recall that we found three small odontocete vertebrae last week. Those three, plus the two today, were all found within a few inches of each other, and all have about the same centra diameters (allowing for the fact that they’re not consecutive, and that the atlas doesn’t have a centrum). Moreover, the small lower jaw fragment we recovered a few days ago was found less than a foot away.
Maybe they are from one animal, maybe it’s a chance association. But none of these elements is particularly common at Carmel Church, and these were all found in very close proximity to one another.
I’m just sayin’…