Woman Unearths 20-Million-Year-Old Marine Mammal Fossil on Oregon Coast

fossil newport oregon
Image courtesy of KGW

NEWPORT, OREGON — A unique discovery was made on a beach near Newport when a woman stumbled upon a fossil, estimated to be over 20 million years old, during a leisurely walk.

This ancient relic consisted of teeth from a Desmostylian, an animal similar in appearance to a hippopotamus but aquatic in nature.

The find occurred in late March as the woman searched for agates, she revealed in a Reddit post. The unusual find quickly drew widespread interest, including that of Nick Pyenson, the Smithsonian’s curator of fossil marine mammals, who verified the teeth as belonging to a Desmostylian.

Pyenson described the Desmostylian as having close evolutionary ties with elephants and sea cows, both herbivores that use their teeth in unique ways.

While the exact duration these fossils have rested along the Oregon coast remains uncertain, Pyenson noted that these creatures once roamed the Northern Pacific Ocean waters more than 20 million years ago.

He theorized that the fossil's presence on the beach could be attributed to cliffside erosion or stormy weather that disrupts sediment: "After a storm, the beach is an excellent place to explore because of the natural upheaval,” he explained.

Pyenson concluded by reflecting on the rarity of such discoveries, suggesting that a bit of luck often plays a role in finding such treasures.

Source: KGW