Speed Reads

Ancient artifacts

Paleontologists discover a whale fossil on top of a mountain

Paleontologists made an unexpected discovery in a very unexpected location when they unearthed a nearly intact whale skeleton well above sea level. The shifting tectonic plates and earthquakes had moved a whale once fossilized on the seafloor to the top of a mountain in Scotts Valley in Santa Cruz, California, over the course of the 4 million years since the whale's demise.

Even more impressive than the whale fossils' upward movement is just how well preserved it is millions of years later. While paleontologists typically only uncover bits and pieces of fossils along the coastline, in this case, paleontologists got way more than a few bones. The vertebrae of the mysticete whale, which measured about 25 feet in length, was uncovered, as well as pieces of its skull, jaw, shoulder blades, and arm bones.

Scientists think that this discovery could offer some new insights into the origins of modern-day whales. "That's an interesting time in whale evolution," UC Santa Cruz Paleontologist Matthew Clapham told the Santa Cruz Sentinel. "A lot of whales were starting to evolve from their early ancestral group, so this specimen, depending on how complete it is, could say a lot of interesting things about the evolution of whales."