While Digging On Her Family’s Timber Property For A School Project, She Came Across A 34 Million Year Old Whale Skull

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Not many high school students can say that they spent their summer digging up rare fossils. But a 16-year-old from Alabama named Lindsey Stallworth did just that.

While digging on her family’s timber property in Monroe County for a school project, Stallworth and her teacher, Andrew Gentry, encountered some huge bones on a hill.

Gentry is a scientist and biology teacher at the Alabama School of Mathematics and Science. Previously, Stallworth had discovered fossilized shark teeth on the property, so that was what the pair had set out to do. However, they got much more than they bargained for.

It took several days of digging before they were able to determine what kind of animal the bones belonged to. At first, they uncovered part of a lower jaw, then one of the creature’s teeth.

Once they cleared away the excess dirt and rock, they realized they had stumbled across the skull of a whale that is estimated to be 34 million years old. The skull was about four to five feet long.

The whale is believed to be from the Eocene period, which was a time when what is now known as Alabama was submerged by a shallow sea.

So, Alabama is actually a hot spot for finding fossils of sea creatures, even though the state’s ground is as dry as can be today.

Experts speculate that the whale was carnivorous and a relative of the species Basilosaurus cetoides, a marine mammal that could grow up to sixty feet long. The new fossil may even belong to a species in the Basilosauridae family that’s never been seen before.

So far, only the skull has been excavated. It will be a while before the entirety of its remains are unearthed. The student and teacher duo plan to resume digging next summer and hope to excavate the rest of the whale skeleton. If the skeleton is intact, it could measure about fifteen to twenty feet long.

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