Racing the Tide

Smithsonian scientists race the tide the excavate an ancient whale fossil entombed in rock
Aaron O'Dea

Paeleobiologist Dr. Nicholas Pyenson, Curator of Fossil Marine Mammals for the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History (NMNH), set out with Jorge Velez-Juarbe, NMNH Research Student and Ph. D. Candidate at Howard University and Aaron O'Dea from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute on an expedition in Panama to excavate a squalodontid, commonly referred to as a shark-toothed dolphin, in June 2011.

The fossil squalodontid skull was located in the middle of the tidal environment in Panama, giving the researchers an added challenge of racing the tide for the excavation. The team was successful in their efforts, conducting an excavation that would normally take two days in just four hours.

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