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New Whale Species Unearthed In California Highway Dig

samzenpus posted about a year and a half ago | from the a-whale-of-a-tale dept.

Science 70

sciencehabit writes "Thanks to a highway-widening project in California's Laguna Canyon, scientists have identified several new species of early toothed baleen whales. The new fossils date to 17 to 19 million years ago, or the early-mid Miocene epoch, making them the youngest known toothed whales. Three of the fossils belong to the genus Morawanocetus, which is familiar to paleontologists studying whale fossils from Japan, but hadn't been seen before in California. These three, along with the fourth new species, which is of a different genus, represent the last known occurrence of aetiocetes, a family of mysticetes that coexisted with early baleen whales. Thus, they aren't ancestral to any of the living whales, but they could represent transitional steps on the way to today's whales."

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WAS IT MISTY GREEN AND BLUE ?? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42934859)

I wonder !!

Anyone else feel small in the presence of nature? (4, Interesting)

concealment (2447304) | about a year and a half ago | (#42934891)

Nature: creates universe, life, billions of years of different species, creatures of every conceivable size and type, vast oceans, huge forests, nicotine, sugar and alcohol.

Humans: internal combustion, digital computers, drone strikes and Minecraft.

It makes me feel tiny, insignificant and sort of helpless, and to think the same of my species.

Re:Anyone else feel small in the presence of natur (2)

blydro (2844535) | about a year and a half ago | (#42934961)

I will say, in recent years, the human race has started to... change. Just look at Youtube comments!

Re:Anyone else feel small in the presence of natur (5, Insightful)

rgmoore (133276) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935227)

I think you're leaving out some of the good stuff. The moon landings and the Large Hadron Collider make me feel a bit better about what humans are able to achieve. And it's not as if we're done yet, either.

Re:Anyone else feel small in the presence of natur (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42939155)

Humans biggest achievement so far seems to be hubris, and unless we development a better sense of global responsibility, we may be closer to the end than the beginning.

Yes, I feel small in the presence of such ill-conceived, egocentric puffing.

Re:Anyone else feel small in the presence of natur (1)

jgrahn (181062) | about a year and a half ago | (#42939593)

I think you're leaving out some of the good stuff. The moon landings and the Large Hadron Collider make me feel a bit better about what humans are able to achieve.

IMHO Bob Marley and Shakespeare are two out of many better examples ...

Re:Anyone else feel small in the presence of natur (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42935297)

Only if you assume you are not made by nature. If you hadn't had your study of evolution replaced by fundamental Christian teachings, you would also know that humans, internal combustion, digital computers, drone strikes and Minecraft would be under nature as well.

Re:Anyone else feel small in the presence of natur (3, Insightful)

Golddess (1361003) | about a year and a half ago | (#42936677)

If you hadn't had your study of evolution replaced by fundamental Christian teachings

Uh, no. Saying that humans have come up with internal combustion, digital computers, drone strikes, Minecraft, or anything else does not logically lead to "I believe in an Invisible Sky Daddy". On the other hand, dismissing human accomplishments as having come from "nature" does. You know, like how hand-egg players will thank their particular flavor of Invisible Sky Daddy for the skills to do what they did.

If you want to believe in an Invisible Sky Daddy, that's fine. But when you claim that the attribution of human accomplishments and advancements to humanity equates to a belief in an Invisible Sky Daddy, while the attribution of human accomplishments and advancements to "nature" does not? I don't know what to say to that, other than it feels like you are trying to be deliberately deceptive.

Re:Anyone else feel small in the presence of natur (-1)

operagost (62405) | about a year and a half ago | (#42936929)

And thanks to you for escalating the pointless belligerence.

Re:Anyone else feel small in the presence of natur (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42938701)

If you would accept the maxim of not confusing stupidity with malice, your view of fellow humans would change from resentment to hoplessness.

Re:Anyone else feel small in the presence of natur (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42939341)

Stepping out on a limb here, but using terms meant to insult and degrade the beliefs of others who are more often than not quite rational, logical and intelligent seems a petty thing to do. It is one thing to speak against it and to disagree with it, however, picking terms specifically designed to draw a negative emotional response from the other party speaks volumes about your ultimate motives.

Re:Anyone else feel small in the presence of natur (1)

Peristarkawan (875561) | about a year and a half ago | (#42947243)

Terms like "Invisible Sky Daddy" are not meant to insult and degrade. They are meant to highlight the irrationality of such beliefs in the hope that the otherwise rational individuals who hold them might reassess their beliefs and ultimately reject them.

Re:Anyone else feel small in the presence of natur (1)

RockDoctor (15477) | about a year and a half ago | (#42947809)

but using terms meant to insult and degrade the beliefs of others

... is almost precisely what "Invisible Sky Daddy" isn't an example of. Three important characteristics of the bat-shit insane anthropomorphism of the blind forces of nature are used, mildly suggesting that the dribbling idiocy of believing such stupid bullshit might not be the most well thought-through of ideas.

Grow some skin, god-lover, before you consider trying to grow some balls and live without a protective god to cover your sorry incompetent arse.

Re:Anyone else feel small in the presence of natur (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42970659)

terms specifically designed to draw a negative emotional response from the other party

I'm sure GP meant no disrespect to you and your fellow Visible Ground Mommy worshipers. Or whatever kind of deity you believe in that is not an Invisible Sky Daddy.

Re:Anyone else feel small in the presence of natur (-1)

operagost (62405) | about a year and a half ago | (#42936909)

Thanks for shoehorning your ignorant anti-religious rant into the discussion.

Re:Anyone else feel small in the presence of natur (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42935577)

It makes me feel tiny, insignificant and sort of helpless, and to think the same of my species.

So you're saying that humans can't compete on the same scale as Nature? Congratulations, you've just graduated to the rank of 'Tenderfoot'. There aren't many ranks above your new achievement, but at least you'll be able to appreciate Nature's glory while you spend your cosmic '15 minutes' using up Nature's resources.

Man is just another animal on this planet. Sure, we've done more harm to this planet then all the other animals combined, but something has to be at the top of that list.

Re:Anyone else feel small in the presence of natur (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42935923)

Just isn't just another word.

Re:Anyone else feel small in the presence of natur (1)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | about a year and a half ago | (#42936331)

At the pace humanity is going, we're going to surpass nature in the decades to come.

Re:Anyone else feel small in the presence of natur (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42936545)

It's your own personal hell, if you internal combustion makes you feel tiny.

Re:Anyone else feel small in the presence of natur (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42936673)

Um, you totally forgot beef jerky. Come on. You're better than this.

Re:Anyone else feel small in the presence of natur (2)

Sulphur (1548251) | about a year and a half ago | (#42937161)

Um, you totally forgot beef jerky. Come on. You're better than this.

Whale jerky, like beef only better.

Re:Anyone else feel small in the presence of natur (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42936771)

Of course nature had to create human beings as well! Those whale bones aren't just going to dig themselves up without our help, now are they?

Re:Anyone else feel small in the presence of natur (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42936893)

Just think, had the USA listened to the "Tree Huggers", these fossils would never have been found. Even gas guzzling, internal combustion engines "have a silver lining". LOL!!!

Re:Anyone else feel small in the presence of natur (1)

operagost (62405) | about a year and a half ago | (#42936897)

Your comment makes little sense, whether you believe human beings sprang out of nature (and thus are a subset of "Nature"), or were created by a deity.

Re:Anyone else feel small in the presence of natur (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42937067)

I always think that we're the coolest part of nature. It's funny that we make a separation between the two.
-s

Re:Anyone else feel small in the presence of natur (3, Insightful)

magic maverick (2615475) | about a year and a half ago | (#42937809)

Give me millions of years and I'll create all sorts of cool shit. Remember that "nature" has had aeons to do all this stuff, humans have had what, 100 000 years or less? Hardly the same time scale.

Re:Anyone else feel small in the presence of natur (1)

gmhowell (26755) | about a year and a half ago | (#42940301)

You may think of yourself as the cupcake, but some of us have an outsized ego.

Re:Anyone else feel small in the presence of natur (1)

stungod (137601) | about a year and a half ago | (#42946515)

I find that I feel small in the presence of cold nature.

FAT CAT SCIENTISTS AT IT AGAIN (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42934951)

get real job, assholes!

Re:FAT CAT SCIENTISTS AT IT AGAIN (1)

ButchDeLoria (2772751) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935309)

Yeah, like corporate serfdom!

Re:FAT CAT SCIENTISTS AT IT AGAIN (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42936237)

Which do you prefer , "corporate serfdom" or "government serfdom"? You need to decide because you're going to get one or the other. At least I can leave one corporation and go to another. Hard to leave one government and go to another.

Re:FAT CAT SCIENTISTS AT IT AGAIN (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42936317)

> Hard to leave one government and go to another.

wtf are you talking about? mexicans do it every day, dumbass.

Re:FAT CAT SCIENTISTS AT IT AGAIN (0)

MightyMartian (840721) | about a year and a half ago | (#42936699)

Only the idiotic or evil despise the increasing of knowledge.

I suspect you probably belong in the first category.

What highway? (3, Funny)

Infiniti2000 (1720222) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935041)

I haven't RTFA or even summary of course, but I bet those stupid mammals got ridden down on the 5 like everyone else.

Re:What highway? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42935121)

It's that damned infinite improbability drive again

Re:What highway? (1)

cifey (583942) | about a year and a half ago | (#42936951)

Going to log it as S.E.P. and move on.

Re:What highway? (1)

TWX (665546) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935879)

I can guarantee you that while the scientific community is excited, the construction community is PISSED. This is undoubtedly screwing up the highway construction plans.

It's not uncommon for construction crews to willfully not see things of archeological and paleontological significance when working because it could cost them their jobs as the project stalls while archeology or paleontology takes place on the jobsite. The new federal courthouse in Phoenix was held up for many months because of the arecheology after a find.

Re:What highway? (1)

groslyunderpaid (950152) | about a year and a half ago | (#42936017)

I can attest to this type of scenario. As a hobbyist genealogist I've encountered records of burial grounds plowed over by highways or used as fill dirt for highways. Sometimes everyone looked the other way, sometimes the foreman stopped them halfway through when they realized what was going on.

Re:What highway? (1)

RockDoctor (15477) | about a year and a half ago | (#42948053)

... and which is why there are regulations for site surveys (at least, on this side of the Pond) and local archaeological services are (relatively) swift to respond to reports like this.

And geologists like me, with an interest in archaeology, keep our eyes peeled.

Re:What highway? (1)

RockDoctor (15477) | about a year and a half ago | (#42948169)

I can guarantee you that while the scientific community is excited, the construction community is PISSED.

And FTFA :

"In California, you need a paleontologist and an archaeologist on-site" during such projects, Rivin says.

So ... either your construction company has factored these costs into it's tender, and is complying with the law, OR they haven't factored these costs in (or haven't paid insurance), so their bid is either incomplete, or incompetent. In either case, tough on the construction company.

Which is also tough on their employees. But having an incompetent employer who doesn't follow local laws is generally not a recipe for employment bliss.

But they only respond to vibration, right? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42935081)

New species of land whales discovered while excavating in a canyon? Land whales! And that canyon is just one long smorgasbord!

Re:But they only respond to vibration, right? (4, Funny)

Skapare (16644) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935099)

There are more of them. I can feel them moving around underfoot at times when I visit California.

Re:But they only respond to vibration, right? (1)

michelcolman (1208008) | about a year and a half ago | (#42939015)

I bet it killed itself after causing the world's first stock market crash.

The article is unclear on this part (5, Funny)

ZaMoose (24734) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935147)

Was there, or was there not, a bowl of petunias found anywhere near the whale's carcass?

Re:The article is unclear on this part (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42936483)

Not again

New Whale Species Unearthed (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42935233)

Is it OK?

fossils (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42935237)

wtf headline. I was hoping they found a live whale under the street. Guess it'll be just another day...

The New Species of Whale Eats sharks (0)

physburn (1095481) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935249)

So we know why it became extinct, it choked on the lasers.

Lies (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42935257)

The earth is about 6000 years old, the Bible told me so. Carbon dating must be a lie. Jesus rode on one of these whales.

Knowing California... (-1)

RogueWarrior65 (678876) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935533)

a fringe group of environmentalists (emphasis on the 'mental' part) will sue to shut down the construction project in order to save these whales and if that fails they will chain themselves to the construction equipment. I'd be tempted to bury them under the road while quoting René Belloq "Who knows, in a thousand years even you may be worth something."

Transitional fossils? (1)

mark_reh (2015546) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935549)

There goes another one of ID's already weak arguments against evolution...

Re:Transitional fossils? (4, Interesting)

capedgirardeau (531367) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935717)

Even before this find, whales are one of the most well documented transitions from one "kind" to another "kind" (as the creationist idiots like to call them).

Not really surprising to know that hippos and cows are the whale's closest living land relatives.

And this is totally supported by both fossil evidence and DNA evidence.

Re:Transitional fossils? (2)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year and a half ago | (#42938153)

There goes another one of ID's already weak arguments against evolution...

With creationists and IDiots, it's like this: You have two species. "Find us a transitional fossil," they ask you. You find it. "Great job", they say, "now you have to find two more transitional fossils."

#sorrynotsorry (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935557)

New Whale Species Unearthed In California Highway Dig

Neat!

Wait a minute. Has anyone seen Oprah lately?

swallowed the fly, swallowed the shit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42935567)

I know an old lady who swallowed a whale
My what a tale to have swallowed a whale
She swallowed the whale to catch the cow
She swallowed the cow to catch the goat
Who just opened up his throat, and in walked the goat.
She swallowed the goat to catch the dog
She swallowed the dog to catch the cat
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider (the one that wriggled and tickled in side her)
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly
But I don't know why
I guess she'll die.

And so will my memory of this song along with the Constitution and Bill of rights

Wow! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42935687)

They finally discovered your mom! Oooooooo snap, burn, crackle, pop!

YOU CAN'T CUT BACK ON FUNDING! (0)

virgnarus (1949790) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935911)

SEE?! BIGGER BUDGET = MORE SCIENTIFIC BREAKTHROUGHS! CUT FUNDING AND YOU CUT SCIENCE! SCIENCE! YOU'LL REGRET THIS!

- Transportation Advisor

.

.

.

Filler cuz caps lock is evil. yaddayaddayaddayaddayaddayaddayaddayaddayaddayaddayaddayaddayaddayaddayadda

Re:YOU CAN'T CUT BACK ON FUNDING! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42937745)

This article means it's worse than we thought. [imgur.com]

When is an ancestor not an ancestor? (3, Insightful)

pjt33 (739471) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935945)

The summary says

Thus, they aren't ancestral to any of the living whales, but they could represent transitional steps on the way to today's whales.

If they're not ancestors, in what sense do they represent transitional steps? Are the two not synonymous?

Re:When is an ancestor not an ancestor? (1)

capedgirardeau (531367) | about a year and a half ago | (#42936067)

I am not expert, but it is possible that the current find is the ancestor of a whale that was transitional to modern day whales. So modern day whales and these current discoveries shared a common ancestor so it helps us further understand what lead to modern forms.

Maybe imagine it as the end of twig that came off of a larger branch and modern day whales are somewhere further down the larger branch. It would help to know what came off the larger branch earlier in the process.

Re:When is an ancestor not an ancestor? (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about a year and a half ago | (#42936329)

I am not expert, but it is possible that the current find is the ancestor of a whale that was transitional to modern day whales.

Did you mean "descendant"?

No doubt ... (0)

PPH (736903) | about a year and a half ago | (#42936249)

... found in the left lane, driving too slowly.

Highways (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42936577)

Did whales drive...?

Sad (1)

mdragan (1166333) | about a year and a half ago | (#42937717)

Such a new whale species, and already extinct.

Did they discover (1)

idontgno (624372) | about a year and a half ago | (#42938395)

a Nullaquan dustwhale [revolutionsf.com] ? Are they harvesting Flare from its innards even as we speak? That would sell well in SoCal.

Save the whales (1)

mitzoe (2531020) | about a year and a half ago | (#42944295)

And here I thought I had the whole set.

The Miocene of Southern California, was Cetaceans (1)

bbsalem (2784853) | about a year and a half ago | (#42946973)

I live in Northern California and have a geology degree. The article was informative, but it is just shy of giving the useful information from the refereed source, the lithology and formation of the Middle Miocene unit in Leguna Canyon from which the evidently considerable number of fossils comes from. I.d have to find some other source to get the geologic setting for that site.

This is interesting for the geology of California was quite different than it is now. The San Andreas system was just being formed as North America drifted west from the Atlantic spreading ridge and was overtaking the East Pacific Rise. As it did this strike-slip faults were formed when the ridge system and trench that stood off California since the early Jurassic, about 150 MY, were destroyed. The Miocene records the changing environmnts caused by the tectonic change from deep water fie grained oil bearing shales of the Monterey Shale to sandy deposits affected as land was created and eroded.

The fauna described is similar to the one that lives in these waters today, although more primitive, ancestral. It supplies important information about the range of animals that were known from other parts of the world. The lithology of the deposit would tell us more, Did the fauna live near shore which would be the case if then are found in sandy deposits whose grains are derived from land, or were they part of the abyssal shale that is so common in California, earlier in the Miocene?

The San Andreas strike slip, which amounts to 350 km of right lateral displacement in less than 30 MY has changed the areal distribution of Miocene sediments in California. Places that would have been adjacent to Orange County in Miocene time are now in central and northern California. The Monetrey Shale type locality is in southern Monterey County and it can be seen as far north as Santa Cruz, but it is also found very wide spread in the Southern San Jouquen Valley. During the Miocene most of its setting was an off-shore deep water environment off terraines that are today in southern California and Mexico. I expect that the Leguna Canyon setting is probably the inshore equivalent of these offshore abyssal envirornments, provided they are not too much younger. If that then the enironments for these younger Miocene units as all become more shallow water ones, a trend which continues into younger units as the land emerged into Pliocene time.

Re:The Miocene of Southern California, was Cetacea (1)

RockDoctor (15477) | about a year and a half ago | (#42948377)

The article was informative, but it is just shy of giving the useful information from the refereed source,

The article is a summary, as far as I can tell, of a symposium discussion involving a number of specialists in whale palaeontology. http://aaas.confex.com/aaas/2013/webprogram/Session5818.html [confex.com] has the list of speakers, including ... just links to abstracts. http://aaas.confex.com/aaas/2013/webprogram/Paper9513.html [confex.com]

I guess you'll need to contact the authors directly to get (advance) copy of the paper(s). Though they're quite likely to do that, when they've got a paper ready for publication.

(Geologist here too.)

so we can know all about california's past (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42951895)

if we pave the state?

Greenpeace (1)

Dabido (802599) | about a year and a half ago | (#42953837)

Hope we can get these whales back in the water before they dry out and die!!!
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