An Alabama teenager made a great discovery on his farm. A 34 million year old whale skull.
The whale is estimated to be about 20 meters long and could take three or four years to completely excavate. So far, only the skull has been removed.
Lindsey Stallworth, a student at the Alabama School of Math and Science in Mobile, Alabama, has been collecting fossils on her family’s farm north of Mobile for as long as she can remember. Stallworth collected shark teeth and fossil shells, but “we didn’t know anyone who could tell us anything about them.”
The 16 year old brought some of her discoveries to her biology teacher Drew Gentry, a paleontologist who studies Alabama fossils. “I immediately recognized one of the fossil shark teeth Lindsey showed me and I wanted to know more about where she found it.” Gentry said. Gentry and the young girl stayed in constant contact, hoping to make more discoveries and learn more about shark teeth. This led to a much bigger discovery. A 34 million year old whale skull!
The teacher, student and a few helpers spent much of June and July excavating some of the remains and taking them to a paleontology lab at the Alabama School of Math and Science.
“The whale may be related to zygorhiza, a smaller whale that has been discovered in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. It also looks to be a smaller relative of Basilosarurus cetoides, an ancient whale and Alabama’s state fossil.” Gentry told Al.
The whale, which may be the first of its kind to be discovered in Alabama, is thought to be roughly 20 feet long. Jun Ebersole, director of collections at the McWane Science Center in Birmingham, also confirmed that the whale skull is about 34 million years old.
“It’s really hard to comprehend something that’s that many millions of years old, but it started to make more sense once we started getting the dirt away and saw what the skull might have looked like.”
Because of the whale’s size, the team has so far only removed the skull. But they plan to return to Stallworth’s farm next summer to continue the excavation.
Cover Photo: Alabama School of Math and Science