Scientific Publications from the Virginia Museum of Natural History
A Miocene Cetacean Verebra Showing a Partially Healed Compression Fracture, the Result of Convulsions or Failed Predation by the Giant White Shark, Carcharodon megalodon
by Stephen J. Godfrey and Jeremy Altmann
published 5 May 2005
CT scans of a pathological whale vertebra (CMM-V-2194) from the Miocene Chesapeake Group of Maryland, show fractures characteristic of a compression fracture with comminution. The etiology of the injury suggests a sudden and intense hyperflexion of at least the posterior thoracic vertebrae. The trauma was sufficiently violent to break the lower third of the centrum, including adjacent sections of both epiphyses, away from the main body of the element. A dislocated fragment of the anterior epiphysis became wedged within the principle fracture precluding “normal” recovery. The trauma was not immediately fatal however as a significant fusion of fragmented elements was well underway at the time of death.
The cause of the vertebral hyperflexion and resulting trauma is unknown. Possibilities range from convulsions to a crushing blow delivered by a giant white shark, Carcharondon megalodon.