SOLOMONS, MD – A discovery of immense significance was made along Calvert Cliffs, Maryland when a nearly complete skeleton of a 12 million-year-old gannet was unearthed. It is considered the most complete bird skeleton ever found in the region.

Long-time museum volunteer and renowned fossil finder Mike Ellwood found the partial skeleton, including the skull of this ancient bird. What initially caught his eye were the ends of a few bones protruding from the sediments at the cliff’s base. Recognizing them as bird bones, Ellwood received permission from the landowner and cast a platter-sized block of sediment, bringing it to the Calvert Marine Museum (CMM). Unbeknownst to him, a nearly complete skull hid within the cylindrical block he collected.

Stephen Groff, CMM Assistant Paleontology Collections Manager, was tasked with preparing the fossil. Carefully working his way down between the wing bones, he discovered they framed the skull of an extinct species of gannet, an exciting revelation.

Modern gannets are large seabirds that nest on islands or in coastal environments, like the North Atlantic and the Chesapeake Bay. Fossilized gannet bones have been found along the cliffs before, confirming that gannets lived in the area during the Miocene epoch. However, a find of this magnitude, including a skull and bones from one individual, is unprecedented along the cliffs. It has been hailed as a once-in-a-lifetime discovery.

The unique features of the find were not limited to the completeness of the skeleton. The shape and size of the skull confirmed the extinct species of gannet, and the observation of a snout without nostrils provided further insight. This characteristic is an adaptation seen in some diving birds, which helps to prevent water from entering their nostrils during high-speed dives.

Most bird bones are thin, an adaptation to lighten the skeleton for flight. This makes their delicate bones less likely to fossilize well, so discovering even a single isolated bird bone in the region is significant. Therefore, the gannet’s partial skeleton discovery amplifies this find’s importance.

The fossil gannet partial skeleton is now on display in the museum’s fossil preparation lab, where it will remain until it is removed for scientific study.

Those interested in the discovery can watch the spotlight video produced by Calvert Broadcast, recounting the fascinating story of the Miocene Gannet Skeleton Discovery along Calvert Cliffs on YouTube.

David M. Higgins II is an award-winning journalist passionate about uncovering the truth and telling compelling stories. Born in Baltimore and raised in Southern Maryland, he has lived in several East...

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