Local man finds fossil on fishing trip

Published 7:18 pm Tuesday, July 7, 2009

When Forkland’s Tommy Kimbrell returned from an outing on the Alabama River near Monroeville last Sunday, he was probably the only angler in the state to bring home a catch nearly 40 million years old.

Kimbrell found what an expert identified as a Basilosaurus cetoides, an adult whale in excess of 30 feet in length.

“There are very likely more fossil bones of this animal nearby,” said Dr. Jim Lacefield, a retired adjunct professor of Biology and Earth Science from the University of North Alabama.

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Kimbrell contacted Lacefield shortly after his find but Lacefield has yet to see the bone in person.

“The photo does indeed appear to show a fossil whale vertebra. From his description over the phone I was pretty sure what he had found was what he thought it was. The fossil clearly shows the “wings” – called processes – onto which powerful swimming muscles were attached,” he said. “The fossil is a good one, although both processes show signs of weathering while exposed on the river bank.”

Kimbrell’s find, while unusual for him, is not umcommon for the area Lacefiled said.

“Southwestern Alabama is famous for these type fossils,” he said.

During the early 19th century in Louisiana and Alabama, Basilosaurus cetoides fossils were so common (as well as large) that they were regularly used as furniture.

Alabama’s official state fossil is the fossil whale Basilosaurus cetoides, which lived in the extension of the Gulf of Mexico which covered southern Alabama during the Eocene Epoch, about 45 million years ago.