Celebrating the Richness of Paleontology through Fossil Hunting

Finding Whale Fossils along the Calvert Cliffs of Maryland, November 2013

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Calvert Cliffs / Chesapeake Bay Area Fossil Hunting Trip Report: Fossil Shark Teeth and Cetacean (Whale) Material

Calvert Cliffs Fossils - banner

This is a short video (~4 minutes) of the fossil Shark tooth hunt along the Miocene Calvert formation
We didn't find allot of fossil shark teeth, but found a nice fossil crocodile tooth and some nice fossil cetacean material, including a baleen whale jaw, and associated bones from a dolphin.

Whale (Cetacean) Fossils and Fossil Shark Teeth

I had a little free time on my hands, so decided to spend it driving into a tropical depression that was just leaving the Chesapeake Bay area - Maryland and Virginia. I figured the strong winds and heavy rain would erode out some nice fossils. Perhaps a large fossil megalodon shark tooth would wash up. What I didn't count on was the really high water level and large post storm waves. I thought the water would be higher than normal, but this was flood waters. When driving down I noticed flooding signs, and peoples yards and parking lots underwater near the bay. There was also a small craft advisory in effect. I figured since a jetski can't really sink, I would just ignore it. So, deciding the glass is half full; I continued my way to the first boat launch and wrapped up in warm water resistant gear, making sure I fossil hunted during the lowest tides.

The plan was to simply explore. Launch at various ramps, and speed up and down the bay, rivers, and inlets looking for fossil exposures. This method is usually not very productive, but sometimes one can find a nice spot that produces the standard Miocene fossils or the less exposed Paleocene, Eocene, and Oligocene layers.

Once launched, and after battling the waves for 20 or so minutes, we ran across a half submerged boat that didn't survive the storm. I began to think I should pay more attention to a small craft advisory, but quickly thought of fossils again, and continued on my way. We reached the first potential fossil exposure near low tide. When pulling up though, we saw only 3 feet of beach, instead of the normal 20-50 feet of beach at low tide. We quickly changed strategies and decided to hunt the large clay blocks lying in the surf that the storm had just knocked down. Sometimes fresh fossil bone and shark teeth are found laying in the debris, just broken loose from their sediment.

This strategy proved to be successful. Although not allot of fossil shark teeth were found, including no megalodons, we managed to find a nice fossil crocodile tooth and some nice fossil cetacean material. This includes a really neat fossil baleen whale jaw and some kind of associated dolphin bones, which includes a perfectly preserved atlas vertebra, and some rib fragments. We had a really lucky fossil collecting trip!

Please note, no fossil were dug out of the cliffs. Digging in the cliffs is illegal. If you see a fossil sticking out of the cliffs and think it may be substantial, you should notify the Calvert Marine Museum. They can properly excavate the fossil.

Below are the fossils found from the trip:

The Fossils found in the Chesapeake Bay Area

These are the fossils found from the fossil hunting trip. The main finds are the cetacean material. We found one nice fossil shark tooth also.

This is an extinct white shark tooth, Cosmopolitodus hastalis (formerly called a mako shark tooth: isurus hastalis).

This is an extinct white shark tooth, Cosmopolitodus hastalis (formerly called a mako shark tooth: isurus hastalis). It has a 1 7/8" slant height

fossil crocodile tooth from the Calvert formation - miocene

Although one side has a large chip in it, this is still a very nice crocodile tooth from the calvert formation. These are hard to find, and are usually VERY worn. It is also large, 2" in height.

An associated cluster of fossil dolphin bones

The fossil vertebra is an Atlas verebra, there are actually 3 rib fragments, one is under the other an not visible. The rest of the fossil bone material is probably skull fragments from the animals brain case.
This fossil is from the Miocene Calvert Formation.

fossil baleen whale lower jaw from the calvert formation - miocene fossil

This is a large section of Baleen whale jaw recovered from a cliff fall. There were tons of pieces on the beach. This is all I could save.

Minke Whale skeleton, showing where the fossil jaw section came from.

This shows a Minke Whale. One can see the jaw section the fossil came from.