Friday, 28 March 2014

Secret Santa Cruz fossil site reveals new whale species

David Perlman
Published 4:49 pm, Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Bobby Boessenecker was vacationing with his family on a Tahoe beach one day when his uncle called.

"He said some surfer friends found a bunch of whale bones near Santa Cruz," Boessenecker recalled the other day in an e-mail from New Zealand.

That was 10 years ago, and Boessenecker, 18 years old and with a passion for old bones, jumped in his car and drove home. Then it was out to the coast with a friend, to make his way to a huge and undiscovered fossil site.

There were "hundreds upon hundreds of bones there - all sticking out of the cliff," he said.

They were all fossils, and they made a career for Robert W. Boessenecker, a Foster City resident who has been sorting, studying and classifying them ever since.

In the current issue of French scientific journal Geodiversitas, Boessenecker, now a paleontology graduate student in New Zealand, reports on his discovery:

One of the fossil groups in the jumble of bones, he said, comes from a species of whale that has never before been identified - a species that thrived in the Pacific nearly 3 million years ago and is probably the distant ancestor of the minke and fin whales that live today and a relative of today's giant blue and humpback whales.

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