After the groundbreaking of Oceanside’s two beachfront resorts marked a milestone for this Southern California city’s tourism industry. The project is the largest beachfront development on the San Diego coastline in more than 20 years and continues to raise Oceanside’s profile as one of the hottest up-and-coming beach destinations for visitors to San Diego County. An unexpected tourism attraction turned out to be a lot more when a 120,000-year-old fossilized bone from a prehistoric whale turned up at the Oceanside Beach Resort construction site, a consulting paleontologist confirmed.
The 4-foot-long rib appears to be from a carcass that washed up on the beach and broke apart near the end of the Pleistocene Epoch when the sea level was higher and the shoreline was further inland.
Workers were at the lowest level of their excavations when the bone turned up. They were about 25 or 30 feet deep on the floor of what will be the lower level of an underground parking garage, using a backhoe to dig holes for the foundation. State law requires large construction sites to have a consultant on site to watch for any interesting artifacts that may turn up during excavations. It also requires the digging to stop, briefly, so that anything found can be recovered.
Still, the single whale bone helps create a bigger picture of what the region was like long ago. The fossil will eventually be taken to the San Diego Natural History Museum in Balboa Park.
Other important fossils have turned up at North County construction sites over the years.
The San Diego region holds fossils documenting many important moments in Earth’s history.
Siltstone layers 40 million to 50 million years old in Carlsbad contain well-preserved skeletons of early rodents, hedgehogs, primates, tapirs, brontotheres, and camels. Also, some of the only dinosaur fossils ever found in California were located in Carlsbad, from the Cretacious period more than 70 million years ago. Much more recently, mammoths lived throughout North America and became extinct about 4,000 years ago. Their fossils have been found at several construction sites in the county.
Even though the whalebone found at Oceanside was 120,000 years old, it probably was similar to most leviathans living today.