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Hi, just going through some rocks I brought back from Norfolk, UK, thinking quite a few may be fossils (I didn't have long so just grabbed anything I thought looked suspiciously organic by intuition) and as it turns out I think I was quite correct in a number of cases - I think I have quite a few pieces of whale and and a few little bits of mammoth tooth.

 

Trying to confirm this to myself led to a lot of reading and learning online about the local geological formations involved and also whale anatomy, both new topics for me which I always enjoy delving into - part of the enjoyment of fossil hunting for me - I'm less of someone looking for beautiful specimens for display (though I'm not going to turn those down!) and more someone who loves the detective work of trying to identify obscure parts and recreate some aspect of the vanished world before us from its traces. 

 

And searching through whale anatomy and what these weird chunks could be I came across a picture of a whale periotic and realised that the weird little pot structure I had was almost definitely one of these, which if I am correct is good because I believe they are one part of a fragmented whale anatomy that is quite diagnostic. Also I then realised that a strangely hooked piece I found right next to it could well be the tympanic!

 

The preservation here is unusual because many theorise that these kind of whale fossils were first laid down in sandstone in the Miocene when Norfolk was covered with a shallow warm sea, and then later in the Pliocene and early Pleistocene when temperatures dropped sea levels dropped too and the area became land (part of the reason the geology of this area is interesting is the constant transgression and regression of the sea over a few million years), these Miocene rocks were eroded away and the harder fossils reworked into new estuarine or nearshore sediments of this era, often but not always with a layer of hard iron-rich concretion coating them which helped protect them (I guess one question would be, is there anyway of easily removing this hard concretion layer?)

 

So if I am right, these are bones from Miocene whales (many showing signs of shark damage), reburied in the Pliocene / Early Pleistocene and then finally eroded out again in the modern day - quite a journey!

 

Anyway, enough background, for starters I'd love to see what people think about this periotic / tympanic. Am I right? 

 

Here's a summary of my findings (note I used a pic of dolphin periotic someone posted here for comparison so I hope that isn't too cheeky)

 

5e58e06923891_Earbones1.jpg.c4f8dcd0f16ef1d07151565364888690.jpg5e58e06a30d34_Earbones2.thumb.jpg.a5a7e59bba8a0b43edf721ee78827980.jpg

Edited by JoeM
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3 hours ago, JoeM said:

The preservation here is unusual because many theorise that these kind of whale fossils were first laid down in sandstone in the Miocene when Norfolk was covered with a shallow warm sea, and then later in the Pliocene and early Pleistocene when temperatures dropped sea levels dropped too and the area became land (part of the reason the geology of this area is interesting is the constant transgression and regression of the sea over a few million years), these Miocene rocks were eroded away and the harder fossils reworked into new estuarine or nearshore sediments of this era, often but not always with a layer of hard iron-rich concretion coating them which helped protect them (I guess one question would be, is there anyway of easily removing this hard concretion layer?)

Welcome to the Forum.  It is a great place for fossil hunters, and marine mammal are one of my favorite fossils....

Thanks for the background details...

You indeed have a connected periotic_bulla from a toothed whale.. Exciting!!!! I have only seen one of these found in my hunting grounds over the last decade! The fact that it made the journey intact is amazing.  Let me connect @Boesse, who might be able to provide additional details on your find. 

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@JoeM Welcome from Virginia! Great post and great background work.

I'll play devil's advocate on this one. I believe the piece is a conglomerate of geologic origin and not a fossil. The shape is very suggestive, but not of biologic origin. Below is a petrosal and bulla (different species) from Virginia for comparison. 

 

IMG_0250.JPG

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Thanks so much for your replies!

 

That was my thought at first shark doctor (before I even knew what a periotic was!), as at first sight it looks like a bunch of gravel stuck to it - but after a lot of research it shows all of the key diagnostic features of a toothed whale periotic (and was found amongst another bunch of parts that look like whale bone fragments as well!) when you look at it closely, so would be an absolutely astonishing coincidence (especially when you include the tympanic)! So I really do think Shellseeker's diagnosis is correct.

 

You have to remember, in comparison with the pieces you show, if Shellseeker and I are correct, that this is a toothed whale not a baleen whale periotic which I believe your pictures show. Baleen and toothed whale periotics are quite different. Secondly, the preservation on these formations is highly unusual involving a lot of concretion and being essentially fossilized twice, hence why they are much more lumpy and less refined than your example. I was wondering whether they could be worked on in some way to reveal the finer structure underneath?

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I'm fairly confident these are not a periotic and bulla. The textures and shapes are wrong. 

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@Boesse will be the authoritative word on this here on the forum. He's seen, handled, and described more cetacean material that anyone else here.

 

I too am in the very suggestive conglomerate camp as well. Although Mother Nature does like to leave odd looking rocks lying about to test our pareidolia skills, the thing that nixes this for me is the color and textural difference of what appear to be 2 river polished rocks within an overall conglomerate matrix. I understand your reason for picking this up and I had a similar experience. On my first ever fossil hunt on the Peace River here in Florida we were with a guide (as rank newbies clueless to what we were doing). The guide, Mark Renz, had a larger group this day and was splitting his time trying to focus for a bit on all the people digging and sifting in the riverbed. He mentioned that we should keep anything we thought might be something since it could easily be tossed back into the river. Difficult to near impossible to relocate something once you've returned it to the river. Mark soon came by to see how we were doing and asked if we had any mystery pieces. I showed him a suggestively shaped rock and he asked why I had kept that. I said it seemed oddly biological and wanted his opinion. Turned out to be a very worn cetacean tympanic bulla with just enough shape left to conclusively say so. He said most folks wouldn't have spotted it as something different from the river rounded matrix pebbles. I think back to that experience every time I find another bulla in the river.

 

Were it not for the two pebbles in the conglomerate in your specimen, I'd have looked more at the comparison in shape to other periotic specimens but that line of inquiry gets closed off once I see it as conglomerate.

 

 

Cheers.

 

-Ken

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Hi, digit, yes, it has definitely become part of an iron-encrusted conglomerate with gravel and sand, but for my take on it that is not out of keeping with something that has been reworked into new, gravel and sand rich near-shore deposits. So I can totally see why people would have doubts! You may well be right, but I just can't quite get over the co-incidence of these two pieces being right next to each other..

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I tracked down the single example, still connected when found that I recall seeing... Obviously not whale sized....

LouisSDolphinEarbones1.jpg.444973cec9569d66f545d8d6a4ae0800.jpg

 

As you said, a Baleen petrosal is very different,

IMG_1371CRbrown.jpg.88e846ce18304111efc8d4783233a8a0.jpg

 

I appreciate the concerns, I discounted the matrix covering the finds, and possibly should not have... I hope Bobby gets to see and evaluate...:popcorn::popcorn::popcorn:

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Sorry for the delay! Definitely not earbones, sorry! Those are some kind of pebble; phosphate pebbles here on the east coast often form all sorts of strange, organic-looking shapes with unusual holes in them.

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