This is a RARE and uncommonly well-preserved, giant fossil whale thoracic vertebra from a prehistoric toothed whale from the Miocene/ Pliocene Period. Lee Creek fossils carry their own cult following, mainly for shark teeth but a giant vertebra like this is every bit as rare from this formation as finding a large Megalodon tooth there. What makes this a DOUBLY-RARE specimen is the dramatic PREHISTORIC CROCODILE BITE MARKS on the centrum faces. During this period in history, the large crocodile Thecachampsa was alive, co-existing with large toothed whales and the Megalodon shark, in these ancient waters that now make up the Pungo River Formation of Lee Creek. While fossil teeth of this crocodile can be found, it is extremely rare to find such predation evidence on large vertebrate fossils such as offered here!
This specimen is far nicer than normally seen and deserves a place in the finest fossil collection. THE ONLY PREHISTORIC CROCODILE BITTEN WHALE FOSSIL WE HAVE EVER SEEN OR OFFERED! DRAMATIC ANCIENT SCAVENGING DISPLAY SPECIMEN OF ONE APEX PREDATOR EATING ANOTHER.
Deposits and mine operations today are no where near what they used to be and the site has been not producing the fossils it once used to. Furthermore, the public collectors are not granted the access they had in the past, making this a highly desirable specimen that will become even more rare as time goes on. A well-preserved, giant fossil whale vertebra of this size is EXTREMELY UNCOMMON due to the fact that most were preyed upon by large sharks such as Megalodon, and scavenged by smaller meat-eaters when they died in prehistory. Furthermore, the porous nature of the bones makes them more susceptible to decomposition and disintegration over time, rather than fossilization. Prehistoric whale bone fossils are most often found incomplete and fragmented, at best.
On the south shore of the Pamlico river in North Carolina near the Outer Banks lies an open pit phosphate mine still in operation. This mine produces some of the finest fossils (Miocene to Pleistocene) in the world and the region is known as "Lee Creek" by most. There are four recognized formations each with its respective representation of an epoch in time. They are in order of oldest first, PUNGO RIVER (Lower Miocene), YORKTOWN (Early Pliocene), CHOWAN RIVER (Late Pliocene), and JAMES CITY (Pleistocene). It is currently believed that the Pungo River layer once existed as a sub-tropical marine environment. The lowest strata of this formation is theorized to have been under 100 - 200 meters of water when covered by a prehistoric ocean with the uppermost layer having existed at a depth of 70 meters under water. The Yorktown layer is believed to have been under 80 - 100 meters at its lowest strata with a gradual decrease in the ocean depth to a point where the water was as shallow as 15 meters at the last time period of that formation's existence.
Approximately 50 species of sharks alone are found in the Lee Creek mine. Other fossils exist representing skates, rays, bony fishes, mammals (mainly marine), reptiles (turtles) and a host of marine invertebrates. Lee Creek is a world-class site for some of the finest shark fossils. Specimens from this unique site are coveted by collectors the world over.
Whales, dolphins and porpoises make up the group of air-breathing marine mammals called CETACEANS. This group is comprised of three sub-groups - the extinct ARCHAEOCETI, and two living types, the ODONTOCETI (toothed whales) and MYSTICETI (baleen whales). All have a body structure that is highly adapted for their marine environment. These features include paddle-like forelimbs, lack of external hind limbs, large tail for propulsion underwater, dorsally located nostrils for breathing just above the surface of the water, specialized ears for underwater hearing and a streamlined body profile for efficient hydrodynamic locomotion. Odontocetes are more prevalent and varied than Mysticetes. All of the smaller current living whales (porpoises, orcas, narwhals, pilots, etc.) and a few of the larger ones (Sperm Whale) are toothed (Odontocetes). Mysticetes include the largest animal that ever lived on the earth, the Blue Whale.
All cetaceans are carnivorous with a main diet consisting of fish, invertebrates and other marine mammals. Many cetacean fossils are found in sediments alongside fossil shark teeth and other marine vertebrates but whale fossils are much less common compared to other marine vertebrate fossils of the same period and region and whale fossils are often found in fragments or show evidence of predation by prehistoric sharks, no doubt, cetaceans most feared enemy in their prehistoric past.