Scientists may have uncovered an entire new whale species that lived millions of years ago
(CNN) – Scientists believe a fossil found at a landfill in California belongs to an extinct species of whale that lived between 4 and 7 million years ago.
The seven-ton fossil was unearthed in June during a construction excavation at the Prima Deshecha landfill in San Juan Capistrano, Orange County Waste & Recycling announced in a statement.
A paleontologist with Paleo Solutions Lab, a company employed by the County of Orange –paleontologists must monitor construction excavations under California law — was working at the site when a large bone was spotted.
Paleontologists have preliminarily identified the bones as belonging to an extinct species of whale that lived during the late Miocene to the early Pliocene period, according to the statement.
Kristina Hamm, spokeswoman with Orange County Waste & Recycling, told CNN more bones were uncovered, including what appears to be a skull, lower jaw, snout, ribs, limb bones, scapula, humerus, and the clavicle.
“The ear bones are particularly important in species identification, and since we have the entire skull of the whale we are excited to be able to accurately identify the species,” Hamm said.
On Tuesday, the fossils were moved from the site to the Orange County Parks’ John D. Cooper Center for further study. Also known as the Cooper Lab, the center preserves and curates fossils and artifacts found within Orange County, according to its website.
The findings were previously covered in white plaster to protect them from weather elements and stabilize them for transportation.
Geraldine Aron, head paleontologist with Paleo Solutions Lab, told CNN affiliate KTLA in July they believe the whale “might be a new species.”
The new discovery “helps us really define the evolution of whales throughout time,” Aron said.