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Last week I visited Palliser Bay in the Wairarapa. Along the coastline there are many exposures of mudstone from the Hurupi Formation, about 11 to 8 million years old.
These mudstones contain abundant marine shell fossils, but are also known for occasional whalebones. After some time searching, as luck would have it, I found a large piece of bone sticking out of the mud near the base of one of the cliffs.
The bone was embedded in soft sediment and was easy to remove with a bit of digging. Nearby I found two other pieces. They are fragments of lower mandible (jawbone) from a large whale species that hasn't been identified precisely at this stage. Two of the pieces matched together, they are from the left mandible (lower jaw), whilst the other is part of the right mandible.
John Simes is the manager of the fossil collection at GNS Science. He helped me give them an initial clean up to remove some of the mud that coated the bones.
Here you can see the typical mottled texture and brown colour of fossil bone. This is the largest piece, half a metre long and about 25 cms across.
The other two pieces are about 75 cms long when joined together.
There is an epifuana of oyster and barnacle fossils attached to the bones. This tells us that they would have been lying in calm, relatively shallow water before they were buried. There are also several wood fragments in the surrounding clay, which suggests that the whale died not far from land.