A Squalodontid Success

On a beach in Piña, Panama the tide is rolling out. Faint outlines of skeletal remains rise above the sand. Smithsonian scientists Nicholas Pyenson and Aaron O'Dea along with a team of students descend upon the beach. Their mission: to excavate the remains of a whale from the extinct group Squalodontidae, commonly known as "shark-toothed dolphins."

Before they remove the fossil, they must encase it in a plaster jacket. It's a process that can take up to two days. But they are racing the tide and have just four hours to remove the fossil. Will they make it?

Watch a time-lapse video of the dig and read Dr. Pyenson's accounts of the Panama expedition on the Ocean Portal Paleobiology Blog.

Before heading out to the fossil locality in Piña, Panama on the Caribbean coast, the team of researchers have a full breakfast at a cantina by the side of the road: roasted chicken, plantains, and some coffee.