12-Million-Year-Old Whale Fossil Found at Palos Verdes School

Comments (1)


Tue, Jan 28, 2014 at 7:05 AM
  • Chadwick School/Facebook
Next week, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles experts were expected to excavate a fossil discovered by a science teacher on a K-12 school campus in Palos Verdes.

The skull is believed to belong to a sperm whale species that has been there for perhaps 12 million years, the private Chadwick School said in a statement. Scientists believe the find may represent a previously unknown species or even a new Genus.

That's quite a science teacher:

Recent construction on campus helped uncover the skull, and prep school science teacher Martin Byhower made the find. According to Chadwick:
The fossil was found buried in large chunks of 12-million-years-old Altamira Shale, which is most commonly known among students and faculty as 'PV Stone'.
He called in NHM senior paleontological preparator Howell Thomas, who believes the skull might belong to a sperm whale species previously unknown. Here's what he says:

From my initial observation, the fossil appears to be that of a new species, perhaps even a new Genus. If this is a new species or Genus it is definitely a publishable find. If it is indeed a newly identified species or even Genus, the species part of the name could possibly be "chadwickii."
The school says mammal ribs and vertebrae from roughly the same period had been discovered in the area in the past. It's not clear if the bones are related.

It appears the ocean made up part of this area years ago. There are marine fossils at the Palos Verdes Nature Preserve, but you can't take them as souvenirs.

About 9:20 a.m. on Feb. 5 NHM experts will be on-campus to take the whale skull home for about a year's worth of study.

That'll be quite a teachable moment.

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Dennis Romero on Twitter at @dennisjromero. Follow LA Weekly News on Twitter at @laweeklynews.

Related Content


Now Trending

Los Angeles Concert Tickets


  • Street League Skateboarding Super Crown World Championship
    On Sunday, Street League Skateboarding touched down in the Galen Center at USC as part of a four-stop tour for SLS's Super Crown World Championship. The L.A. stop determined the roster for Super Crown, airing August 24th on FOX Sports 1. The final eight are Nyjah Huston, Luan Oliveira, Torey Pudwill, Shane O'Neill, Paul Rodriguez, Chaz Ortiz, Matt Berger and Ishod Wair. All photos by Nanette Gonzales.
  • Comic-Con's "Celebrity" Autograph Area
    A sometimes overlooked (but still incredibly unique) aspect of San Diego Comic-Con are the celebs available to sign autographs, as well as the autograph seekers themselves. If you've ever wanted to meet the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld or the guy who played Michelangelo in the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, chances are, as you wander the Autograph Area, you'll be able to connect with someone you didn't even realize you were waiting your whole life to meet! All photos by Rob Inderrieden.
  • Real Madrid Soccer Practice at UCLA
    Fans came out to greet world champion soccer team Real Madrid as they practice at UCLA. This is the first time that soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo has practiced with the team this year. All photos by Jeff Cowan.