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

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


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