Mt. Vernon Register-News

Features

August 7, 2013

15 million-year-old whale skull found on banks of Potomac River

WASHINGTON — From the banks of the Potomac River, in a region steeped in American history, a massive fossil was dug up last month that apparently can be traced back to a time long before this country's recorded history, a time deep in the world's prehistory.

The fossil is the skull of a whale that is "approximately 15 million years old," said John Nance, the paleontology collections manager at the Calvert Marine Museum in Southern Maryland.

The skull is about six-feet long and is believed to weigh about 1,000 pounds. It was excavated in July from the cliffs at the edge of the Potomac on the grounds of Stratford Hall, the home of Virginia's Lee family and the birthplace of Robert E. Lee. The Potomac River forms part of the border between Maryland and Virginia.

The rest of the skeleton, which experts believe belongs to a type of baleen whale that has since gone extinct, remains embedded in Stratford Hall's sand-colored cliffs.

Stratford Hall is in Westmoreland County, and both George Washington and the country's fifth president, James Monroe, were born in the county, about 100 miles southeast of Washington.

The eroding river bank where the fossil was found is one of the world's few Miocene cliffs, said Jim Schepmoes, Stratford's spokesman, referring to the geological epoch 5 million to 23 million years ago.

Thousands of shark teeth have been found there, and the area is known to be rich in marine fossils. Whales are relatively common in the area, so the rogue bone has been found in the past.

"But to have such a large and complete specimen is pretty uncommon," Nance said. "In a marine environment, the bones are usually scavenged and scattered all about. . .. The really interesting thing," he said, "is we have all the post-cranial material — the vertebrae, the ribs, the flipper bones. It will give us a more complete picture of what these animals looked like."

Text Only
Features
  • The waffle taco's biggest enemy isn't McDonald's. It's consumer habits.

    Gesturing to Taco Bell, Thompson said McDonald's had "not seen an impact relative to the most recent competitor that entered the [breakfast] space," and that new competition would only make McDonald's pursue breakfast more aggressively.

    April 23, 2014

  • Cats outsmart the researchers

    I knew a lot had been written about dogs, and I assumed there must be at least a handful of studies on cats. But after weeks of scouring the scientific world for someone - anyone - who studied how cats think, all I was left with was this statement, laughed over the phone to me by one of the world's top animal cognition experts, a Hungarian scientist named Ádám Miklósi.

    April 22, 2014

  • Do your genes make you procrastinate?

    Procrastinators, in my experience, like nothing better than explaining away their procrastination: General busyness, fear of failure, and simple laziness are just a handful of the excuses and theories often tossed around. Now researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder have added another option to the list: genetics.

    April 21, 2014

  • Biggest student loan profits come from grad students

    This week, the Congressional Budget Office projected that the federal government would earn roughly $127 billion from student lending during the next 10 years.

    April 18, 2014

  • Consumer spending on health care jumps as Affordable Care Act takes hold

    Nancy Beigel has known since September that she would need hernia surgery. She couldn't afford it on her $11,000 yearly income until she became eligible for Medicaid in January through President Barack Obama's signature health care law.

    April 17, 2014

  • To sleep well, you may need to adjust what you eat and when

    Sleep.  Oh, to sleep.  A good night's sleep is often a struggle for more than half of American adults.  And for occasional insomnia, there are good reasons to avoid using medications, whether over-the-counter or prescription.

    April 16, 2014

  • Allergies are the real midlife crisis

    One of the biggest mysteries is why the disease comes and goes, and then comes and goes again. People tend to experience intense allergies between the ages of 5 and 16, then get a couple of decades off before the symptoms return in the 30s, only to diminish around retirement age.

    April 15, 2014

  • Screen shot 2014-04-11 at 4.49.09 PM.png Train, entertain your pets with these 3 smartphone apps

    While they may not have thumbs to use the phone, pets can benefit from smartphone apps designed specifically for them.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Millions of Android phones, tablets vulnerable to Heartbleed bug

    Millions of smartphones and tablets running Google's Android operating system have the Heartbleed software bug, in a sign of how broadly the flaw extends beyond the Web and into consumer devices.

    April 11, 2014

  • DayCareCosts.jpg Day care's cost can exceed college tuition in some states

    Most parents will deal with an even larger kid-related expense long before college, and it's a cost that very few of them are as prepared for: day care.

    April 10, 2014 1 Photo

Twitter Updates
Facebook
Stocks