Some earthquakes rattled more than nerves on the Central and South Coasts last summer. They helped uncover a possibly 15 million year old fossil. A boulder rolled down a hill in the mountains north of Highway 118 in Simi Valley, and the utility crew which found it noticed it appeared to contain a fossil.
Following the legally mandated process for the discovery of potential fossils, experts were called in to review the find.
Dr. Russell Shapiro is a paleontologist at Cal State Chico. He says a team of researchers and volunteers went to the spot to recover the boulder, and any other fossils they could find.
Shapiro says the boulder is a massive, four foot long block that weighed hundreds of pounds. It's been taken to Chico for analysis. But, they aren’t sure yet about what kind of creature which was entombed in the rock. It might be a baby whale, or a now extinct type of marine mammal.
Dr. Todd Greene, with Cal State Chico, is an expert on deep marine sediments. He says rocks from the period around 15 million years ago are rich in marine fossils. The researchers say while it’s hard to picture, many inland areas of the Central and South Coasts were undersea not that geologically long ago. They say tectonic activity was a factor.
Shapiro says they weren’t able to find the head of the creature, but did find a number of other smaller fossils. They also found some shark's teeth with the skeleton, which was common because larger sea mammals were often attacked by the predators.
They are cleaning the bones so they can have a whale expert look at them to help make a final determination on what they’ve found.
Once the research is complete, plans call for the Simi Valley fossil to be displayed at a children’s museum in Chico.