Rare Sperm Whale fossil found during search for GoPro from Alligator attack
They say fortune favors the bold, but you have to have nerves of steel to go diving in the exact spot where a man was viciously attacked by an alligator just days before.
You might remember amateur fossil hunter Michael Staab from his discovery of a dire wolf tooth a few weeks ago, but what he found while searching for a lost GoPro blows that out of the water.
When diving for fossils, Michael Staab knows you have to be careful. “Every time you enter the water, you are taking a risk. This is not the season to be in the water with Gators.”
So when fellow fossil hunter Jeff Heim was attacked while diving for Shark teeth, Mike decided to help him out, by looking for his camera lost in the attack, with the hope that it captured the moment the gator struck.
“He said he lost his GoPro out there. We knew they had pulled the gator out, so it was actually one of the safest places to dive in my opinion.” Staab said.
Unfortunately, he never found it. But what he did find was a fossil no one ever suspected.
“I pulled out a whale tooth, another one and they matched. They looked associated. I started to fan the sand in the area and saw them sticking out in a pattern. It was then that I realized I had found an entire jaw.”
He and his friends worked into the night, pulling out a total of 20 intact teeth, and pieces of a jaw. The remains of what paleontologists are calling a Sperm Whale.
“Probably in the general range of somewhere between 4 and 8 million years old.” said Dr. Richard Hulbert, from the Florida Museum of Natural History.
So far in Florida, only a handful of intact fossils like this have been found, prompting Dr. Richard Hulbert to say they’ll likely ask Mike to donate them.
“I think there has only been a couple found up until now that have made their way into museums or public knowledge.” Hulbert said.
But for now, sitting in a cooler in his garage, the whale teeth serve as an example of the impact amateurs can have on the fossil record.
“When you have hundreds of thousands of people out there looking and finding things. It would be impossible for the small amount of professional paleontologists in Florida to do.”
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