Surfers in California Make Prehistoric Find

A fossil literally millions of years old revealed itself out of nowhere in Santa Cruz.

By Lori Preuitt
|  Saturday, Nov 17, 2012  |  Updated 9:08 AM EDT
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Surfers in California Make Prehistoric Find

Chris Elmenhurst / Surf The Spot Photography

This photo makes the fossil look as big as a dinosaur, but it is actually about 8-10 feet.

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Surfers normally make news when the "surf's up," but this week in Santa Cruz, in Northern California, the news was made when surfers noticed something strange when the surf was down, as in a very low tide.

Santa Cruz surfers discovered a small prehistoric skeleton Wednesday morning during a lower-than-usual low tide at the base of a cliff at Pleasure Point.

Experts say the bones were the vertebrae of a small whale that had been fossilized. It's not uncommon to find fossils along the coast, but this creature is upright and appears to be well preserved.

Gary Griggs, director of University of California Santa Cruz's Institute of Marine Sciences, told KSBW in Salinas that the skeleton was most likely an extinct Pliocene-era whale. 

View more photos here.

The Pliocene era was roughly 3 to 5 million years ago.

The bones were found just below the home of Jack O'Neill. O'Neill is known around the world for making wetsuits.

The surfers who made the discovery Wednesday were headed to a break water named "Jack's."

O'Neil is among the scores of people who checked out bones that date back to when dinosaurs ruled the world.

He says he never noticed it before even though he has looked down at that part of the beach every day for the past 40 years. "It's a new one," O'Neill told the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

Because of its location in the water, the bones are not likely to be excavated.

More of the creature is expected to be revealed over time, but experts are asking people to leave the bones as they lie.

The next lower than normal tide is not until mid-December. That is the next time the fossil is expected to give a good showing.

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