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.

Smithsonian researchers eat a meal in preparation for a fossil excavation
Complete Fish Skeleton Discovered by Smithsonian Scientists in PanamaSmithsonian Scientists Dig a Trench Around a squalodontid SkullSmithsonian scientists apply a plaster bandage cap to a block of rock containing fossilsa squalodontid skull is dislodged after a plaster jacket is appliedScientists remove remove the whale fossil plaster jacket from the rSmithsonian scientists race the tide the excavate an ancient whale fossil entombed in rockA Smithsonian scientist with a whale fossil he excavated