LAKE CASITAS — Aaron Plunkett went out for a January day of angling, and though it wasn't a particularly good day for fish, the Ojai resident came home with a monumental catch: a 25-million-year-old whale.
It was a find--a few pieces of fossilized bones--that has the experts excited. They're certain that what Plunkett stumbled over is a first of its kind in California: a toothed baleen whale, representing a rare evolutionary link between whales as we know them and their ancient, toothy ancestors.
"He has in fact found a very important specimen," said Larry Barnes, a curator at the Los Angeles Museum of Natural History.
What Plunkett found Jan. 19 is a whale dating from the earliest part of the Miocene period, and one of the last of the toothed baleens to survive past the Oligocene period 25 million years ago. It's a fossil that until now has mostly been seen only in such areas as the Pacific Northwest, Baja California and Japan.
Plunkett couldn't be reached Thursday. In a written statement, he said he hoped to create an Ojai learning center to house the skeletal remains.