Southeastern Section - 64th Annual Meeting (19–20 March 2015)

Paper No. 3
Presentation Time: 1:40 PM


GARRISON, Ervan, Geology, The University of Georgia, GG Building, Athens, GA 30602,

Survey and recovery of subfossil paleontologic remains of the gray and other whale species, in the Georgia Bight, since 2006, has provided bone samples which have been assayed for replicable DNA. To date the remains of at least four gray whales (Eschrichtius robustus)have been identfied in Georgia and Florida. The Florida finds were made in the 1980s and provided by the Florida Museum of Natural History.

The tooth of a sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) and two currently unidentified otoliths make up the sample population discussed herein. The age range for the various the gray whale finds is from Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 3 (59-24 ka) to the early Holocene, ~8000 BP. The sperm whale tooth had eroded from MIS 3 sediments. The age determination for the subfossil bone was done using the AMS-radiocarbon method. Sediments were dated using optical stimulated luminescence (OSL).

The otoliths were recovered from a prehistoric burial found on the Georgia Bight barrier island, St, Simons, GA. The burial was that of a Late Woodland Period culture, ca. AD 900. Another otolith was found in a separate burial but permission to recover a genomic sample from this specimen has not been granted by the U.S. National Park Service as yet. Because the Georgia Bight is the calving ground for the modern right whale (Eubalena glacialis, speciation of these otoliths, using genomics, could bear on the consanguineoususage of the Bight by this or other (gray) whale species in late prehistory. The genomic study of these archaeological finds and the older geologic specimens has been carried at the University of York (UK) and/or the Max Planck Institute, Leipzig (DE).

  • SE GSA 2015 gray whale.pptx (19.3 MB)