RANCHO PALOS VERDES, California (AP) – A rare whale fossil has been pulled from a Southern California backyard with some unusual help – a sheriff’s search-and-rescue team.
Paleontologist Howell Thomas of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County says the 16- to 17-million-year-old baleen whale fossil is one of about 20 baleen fossils known to exist. Baleen is a filter made of soft tissue used to sift out prey, like krill, from seawater.
The fossil, lodged in a 1,000-pound rock, was hoisted from a ravine. Using pulleys and a steel trolley, crews pulled the fossil up a steep backyard slope and into a truck bound for the museum.
The fossil was discovered by 53-year-old Gary Johnson when he was a teen exploring the creek behind his family’s home. Johnson called Thomas after a whale fossil was recovered in January at a nearby school.