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Hey all,


Our collections manager and I have had a pretty busy week, and finished the first phase of the installation of the "Cone Whale" - a baleen whale skeleton collected from the Lee Creek Mine by Lee Cone (President of the Special Friends of the Aurora Museum). The specimen is the most complete whale skeleton ever collected from the mine, and was hauled out a few bones at a time over a two week period in Spring 2007. It includes a partial disarticulated cranium with an earbone (petrosal/periotic), left and right mandibles, all cervical vertebrae, most of the thoracics, and possibly a couple of lumbar vertebrae - and about a dozen ribs. The skeleton also has numerous shark bite marks, which just yesterday we marked with a series of red triangular markers. The new exhibit features artwork by yours truly, shark-bitten ribs in a magnifying box, and in the future will also include a number of specimens that the "Cone Whale" was preserved with.


The "Cone Whale" shares a number of features in common with rorquals (family Balaenopteridae - the pleat-throated whales, e.g. humpback, fin, blue, minke) and gray whales (family Eschrichtiidae). The two families are closely related, with gray whales possibly being included within the rorquals based on DNA. Fossils like this hold promise to shed light on the early diversification of this group. The "Cone Whale" is a new species and was not represented amongst the fossils described in the Whitmore and Kaltenbach chapter of the Lee Creek IV volume - I've only seen a couple of other earbones of this taxon, so it is safe to say that this is the rarest baleen whale from the mine (and hence, a very lucky find).


Lee Cone graciously donated this specimen to our museum in October 2016 and we've been painstakingly caring for it, and attempting to further reassemble fragments of the specimen. Turns out, Lee was nearly exhaustive in his efforts, and we've only been able to match perhaps 10% of the isolated fragments. The entire skeleton is highly fractured because it went through a dragline and was dumped - yet all the bones stayed in approximate position. Many parts were found by bulk screening of sediment.


Come see the "Cone Whale" at College of Charleston soon - it opens to the public today for the first time ever!


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-Bobby Boessenecker, Ph.D.

College of Charleston

Charleston, SC







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Awesome job all the way around!! I also love all the "Please Touch" signs. My kind of museum, and I'm sure the children's also!! What kid doesn't like to touch everything.

34 minutes ago, Boesse said:

The skeleton also has numerous shark bite marks, which just yesterday we marked with a series of red triangular markers.

When I read the post the first time I thought this said you marked it with red markers. :headscratch: Thought that was odd lol.

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Bobby, It is possible that I would eventually get to see the exhibit as I have some relatives in Conway, SC.  However, it would be a while.  I see your poster and know that there are a lot of things I would learn by reading it. There may be a writeup already on the cone whale. If so , point me to it. Else I will follow the twitter deed.  Thanks Jack

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Very nice display!

Thanks for sharing it here.


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