Posted by: The ocean update | June 22, 2016

Sperm whale fossils up to 12 million years old unearthed at Irvine landfill (California, USA)

Fossilized teeth from a sperm whale were discovered at the Frank R. Bowerman Landfill in Irvine. The 40-foot whale is believed to have lived 10 million to 12 million years ago. Kevin Chang

Fossilized teeth from a sperm whale were discovered at the Frank R. Bowerman Landfill in Irvine. The 40-foot whale is believed to have lived 10 million to 12 million years ago. Kevin Chang

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016 (Matt Morrison). More than 1,200 feet up on a hillside in Irvine probably isn’t the first place you’d expect to find the final resting place of a 40-foot sperm whale, but that’s what Melissa Macias stumbled upon last month.

The paleontologist with Santa Ana engineering contractor Psomas noticed something unusual while doing a site survey May 20 at the Frank R. Bowerman Landfill.

“I was walking down this hillside. I found a bone outcropping. I followed it and there was more bone and more bone, and then the teeth,” Macias recalled. “I knew that it was something big, something exciting. I didn’t really know what it was at the time.”

The find turned out to be fossils — parts of a skull, part of a jawbone, a flipper bone and 18 mostly intact teeth — from a sperm whale estimated to have lived 10 million to 12 million years ago.

The remains were unveiled to the media Tuesday morning at the landfill.

Sperm whale skeleton

Circled in red on a diagram of a sperm whale are pieces discovered last month at the Bowerman Landfill in Irvine. The fossils found on a hillside are believed to be 10 million to 12 million years old. (Courtesy of Orange County)

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