Prehistoric Whale Fossil Unearthed at San Juan Capistrano Landfill

Paleontologists on Thursday picked up the remains of a prehistoric whale discovered during an excavation at a landfill in San Juan Capistrano.

Deshecha Landfill in San Juan Capistrano on July 26, 2018. (Credit: Kristina Hamm/Orange County Waste & Recycling)

Crews retrieve the plaster-covered remains of a whale at the Prima
Deshecha Landfill in San Juan Capistrano on July 26, 2018. (Credit: Kristina Hamm/Orange County Waste & Recycling)

Crews were digging in the middle of the Prima Deshecha Landfill on June 29 when a paleontologist, assigned to the operation per California law, noticed a large bone, according to Orange County Waste & Recycling.

The fossil was cordoned off, and as more bones were spotted, additional paleontologists were called to the scene.

Preliminary findings indicated that the remains belonged to an extinct whale species that lived about four to seven million years ago during the late Miocene to early Pliocene period, county officials said.

Paleontologists have so far uncovered what appeared to be a snout, lower jaw, ribs, limb bones, parts of the backbone and shoulder bones, according to authorities.

Experts wrapped the fossils in plaster and burlap jacket before transporting them to a laboratory, where paleontologists could clean and identify them.

They believed the whale might have belonged to a species that has never been discovered before.

"It [could help] us really define the evolution of whales through time," said Geraldine Aron, head paleontologist with Paleo Solutions.

Officials said that others fossils have been recovered from the landfill before, and that the new discovery could potentially provide new information on the paleo-environment and biodiversity of Southern California.

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