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Fossils found in Bayside: rock-solid evidence of ancient animals

Museums Victoria is leading numerous expeditions down to Bayside in search of ancient predators that lived 5-6 million years ago. Finds have already included evidence of the largest sharks that ever lived and birds the size of pterosaurs (flying prehistoric reptiles with a wingspan of up to ten metres - gulp).

These fascinating discoveries have little financial value but the sedimentary, scientific value for the community is far greater.

IMPORTANT: Digging for fossils is strictly prohibited, they naturally erode from fossil layers and will be damaged.

Let’s look at the four latest fossils found in Bayside and their clues to what Bayside looked like up to five million years ago.

Bayside Fossil #1: Shark tooth

This lower tooth is nearly five million years old and once would have been embedded in the gums of a Carcharodon hastalis. The grand ancestor of today’s great white shark was a macro-predatory fish who ate predominantly large tuna and other marine animals, such as seals.

Shark tooth embedded in clay.

[image credit: Lost World of Bayside]

Bayside Fossil #2: Beaked whale rostrum

In 1977, Tim Flannery found a 5 million-year-old portion of a skull from a beaked whale (the segment to the right in the below image). The discovery was - and still is - the oldest evidence of beaked whales on the continent. Fast forward to March 2020 and the Lost World of Bayside team at Museums Victoria found a similar skull segment. To their delight when the two parts were compared a perfect match was revealed!

Beaked whales are the deepest diving mammals on the planet, capable of holding their breath for more than two hours at a time, and one of the most extreme whales that live today.

Beaked whale skull fossil.

[image credit: Lost World of Bayside]


Bayside Fossil #3: Killer sperm whale tooth

Killer Sperm whales were one of the largest predators that ever existed, rivalling the infamous Megalodon. With interlocking teeth on the top and bottom of their jaws, these creatures terrorised their prey for millions of years, which included feasting on the flesh of other whales - yikes!

In February 2020, the gigantic 22-centimetre tooth pictured below was recently spotted rolling on the seabed in a newly discovered Bayside site. It is one of the largest teeth EVER FOUND in Australia and is roughly 5 million years of age. 

Killer sperm whale tooth.

[image credit: Lost World of Bayside]


Bayside Fossil #4: Penguin humerus

Before the penguin waddled off to the South Pole, five million years ago Gentoo/King penguins lived in Melbourne!

Found recently on the bottom of the seabed is the penguin humerus (upper flipper bone). It's incredibly well preserved and suggests that Gentoo/King sized penguins lived in Melbourne, roughly 5 million years ago.

Penguin bone, humorous bone which is the upper flipper bone.