Ridgecrest earthquakes expose mysterious fossils

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A mysterious fossil was found in a 600-pound rock that was dislodged by the dual Ridgecrest’s earthquakes and their aftershocks back in July.

Utility crews working in the area discovered the rock, with the fossil enclosed, two weeks after the M6.4 and M7.1 magnitude earthquakes shook the region on July 4 and July 5.

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Powerful earthquakes reveal mysterious 15-million-year-old fossil in California. Picture by TODD GREENE via USA Today

The exceptional fossil contains several bones, including a very well-preserved and intact torso and vertebrae. But the head is missing.

Paleontologist Russell Shapiro thinks the fossil could be a small whale or a sea hippo, both of which swam in the Pacific Ocean millions of years ago when it covered parts of what is now California.

The neck looks like a whale. But the ribs don’t look like whale ribs. If they want to clearly identify the fossil, they need the head… But it’s missing.

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It is unknown if the fossilized bones are from a sea hippo or a small whale. Picture by Russel Shapiro via USA Today

The rock in which the fossils was found is approximately 15 million years old and was most probably dislodged by the quakes and rolled to where it was found since rocks like the one the fossil was found in are moved over centuries by seismic activity .

The July quakes have led to several other new discoveries including a previously unknown fault that caused the seismic activity, and the unprecedented shifting of another fault nearby.

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Paleontologists are now trying to find a key identifier: the skull of the ancient marine creature. Picture by TODD GREENE via USA Today

Now, paleontologists are clearing the rock in which the fossil was found to hopefully find some pieces of skull that could help determine the origin of the bones discovered. [USA Today]

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