Mammoth Find Yields Whale of Tale

Second Mammoth tusk found at Thomas Jefferson School of Law construction site

A construction site in San Diego's East Village has given up yet another prehistoric find.

Earlier this month, construction crews found a mammoth skull and tusks at the site of the new Thomas Jefferson School of Law. On Thursday, excavators found the skeleton of a whale beneath the mammoth bones.

Paleontologist Pat Sena said, "It's truly amazing because here we are on one project that's not even that big, and we're getting so many fossils out of it.

San Diego Natural History Museum Paleo Services Department Director Tom Demere said it's an "unprecedented find" -- the only marine mammal dating from the Pleistocene era ever found in San Diego County. He said the bones are those of a baleen whale, which appears to have been a minimum of 40 feet long, based on the size of the ribs.

So far, several ribs, a piece of skull and part of the animal's lower jaw have been unearthed.  The discovery was located about 12 feet directly below the mammoth fossils found a few weeks ago.

Earlier this month, construction crews stumbled upon the mammoth bones, believed to be 500,000 years old, at 11th and Island avenues. A paleontologist from the San Diego Museum of Natural History was called to determine the age of the find. The 8- to 10-foot-long tusks and skull were buried close to 20 feet below ground, according to the school's spokesman Chris Saunders.

Sena said the skull is the first intact mammoth skull ever to be found in San Diego County.

Several species of mammoths lived in Southern California during the Pleistocene Epoch, 1.6 million to 10,000 years ago, according to the San Diego Natural History Museum's Web site.  The Columbian mammoth was 12 feet tall and weighed as much as 10 tons.

Palentologists said they don't know why this one particular area is so rich in fossile remains.  They said it's possible a river ran through the area and deposited the remains.

The law school's dean said, so far, the discoveries have not delayed construction.  He says crews will continue to dig around the whale fossiles until they can all be removed.  They'll be taken to the Museum of Natural History in Balboa Park.  The school is scheduled to be completed by the 2010-2011 school year.

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