The intricately-shaped bones dug up by Danish siblings aged 8 and 12 turned out to be vertebrae from a primeval whale expected to shed more light on the life of ancient sea mammals.
A family of amateur archaeologists from Randers, digging up clay in Gram Lergrav in south Jutland has discovered fossilized remains of a toothed whale that lived 10 million years ago, Danish Radio reported.
With a little help from their dad, 12-year-old Mathilde Preisler and 8-year-old Mathias Olesen unearthed six fossilized whale vertebrae.
“After two to three digs, one bone appeared, and we saw that there were more to follow,” Michael Olesen, the father of the two children.
Millions of years ago, large parts of Jutland were covered by water. As the mountains of what later became some of Europe’s flattest gradually eroded, the clay sank below sea level resting on dead sea animals, Erik Skovbjerg Rasmussen of the National Geological Survey for Denmark and Greenland (GEUS) explained. The Gram Lergrav clay area thus formed part of the seabed and is around 100 meters below sea level. Today, it is a popular attraction with a high chance of finding lesser prehistoric fossils, such as snails, crabs and mussels.
Gram Lergrav is owned by the South Jutland Museum which has currently cordoned off the area to fully excavate the trophy. South Jutland Museum conservator Trine Sørensen has called the vertebrae “the find of the decade.”
“Finds involving this many bones collected are rare. We made two whale-related finds earlier this year, but those were disjointed vertebrae. So this one is much more valuable in terms of scientific research,” Sørensen said.
According to her, it was a small toothed whale related to both sea and river dolphins.
“We can now investigate how the toothed whales moved, how they can found food and how they are related to their peers. Now we are gathering older fossils, so hopefully we can say much more about the subject,” Trine Sørensen stressed.
As a reward for their feat, the Randers family has been granted an entrance pass to Gram Lergrav for life.
“We will come down here and make more exciting finds,” the children’s mother Christine Værnholt Preisler assured.