After a few long days of hard work on the island, we were finally able to excavate and remove, not just one, but two skeletons of an early "toothed" baleen whale from the rocks near the Carmanah Lighthouse. All told, it took our team 3 days, along with assistance from Parks Canada, a chartered boat, a chartered helicopter, car ferries, and one really nice diamond-bladed rock saw.
Nicholas D. Pyenson's blog
The whales that we see in today's world can broadly be split into two groups: those with teeth (odontocetes), and those that have baleen (mysticetes) instead of teeth. These two groups share a common ancestor in the Eocene, which had teeth (They looked a lot like the ancient whale skeletons in the Sant Ocean Hall).
The evolution of whales represents one of the great stories in macroevolution. It's a narrative that has mostly benefitted from an extraordinary series of fossils recovered from rocks around the world, including challenging field areas in Egypt, Pakistan, and India.
Jorge and I arrived in Panama City around 3 pm this afternoon, and took a taxi to the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI)'s headquarters in the Gorgas neighborhood of downtown Panama City. The temperature's about like it would be in D.C. on a hot day, but, much to our amazement, there are giant, beautiful avocados and mangos hanging from the trees, along with monkeys and toucans. (Apparently they pass for the Central American counterparts of rats and pigeons). Pretty neat though!
My graduate student Jorge and I are departing today for Panama, to excavate a fossil whale that was discovered by an undergraduate student working with Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute researcher Aaron O'Dea.