College of Charleston researchers say a fossilized skull found in a river outside Mount Pleasant is an entirely new species of ancient whales which lived 30 million years ago.
Coronodon havensteini appears to be a transitional species with strange teeth which may have been used to filter its food in the same method as modern whales use baleen. Baleen are long bristly strands of keratin inside a whale’s mouth and are used to ensnare small seafood such as krill as the whale pushes water out of its mouth. However, early whale ancestors had teeth in the same manner as other aquatic predator mammals.
In 2006, diver Mark Havenstein came across the unusually well-preserved skull while hunting for fossilized shark teeth in the Wando River. Havenstein eventually donated the skull to his alma mater College of Charleston after the school created its Mace Brown Museum of Natural History. The new species is named for its discoverer. [Read more…]