Bakersfield's Shark Tooth Hill is known by paleontologists worldwide for its impressive collection of fossilized remains from around 13 million years ago. Earlier this year, one particular fossil, a tooth from a pre-historic shark known as the Megalodon, captured the attention of the producers of the Discovery Channel's Shark Week.
Koral Hancharick of Bakersfield's Buena Vista Museum of Natural History says that the ancient creature would make today's great white shark look quite small in comparison.
"Our great whites today were around 25 feet long and "Sharkzilla" or the Megalodon was anywhere from 60 to even up to 70 feet. The actual re-creation that the Discovery Channel did was 58 feet," says Hancharick.
She says the ancient ocean near what is now Bakersfield wasn't the only place these giant sharks called home, but it is one of the best places to find them today.
"The reason why we're so significant here is the Shark Tooth Hill are in that formation is the richest bone bed from the Miocene time period. And it's thought to be because of all the rivers that were here, they brought a lot of silt in. And so the silt coming into the ocean created this really mucky, muddy bottom. So when the creatures were attacked by sharks or died, their specimens, or their bones fell to the bottom to become fossilized they were really terrifically preserved because all of the silt," says Hancharick.
The Discovery Channel filmed for two days in Bakersfield at the museum and at the site near Round Mountain. The producers of the program then took their mechanical Megalodon to the beach at Ventura, where they filmed it devouring various watercraft from surfboards to sail boats.
Hancharick says the museum hopes the program will raise the profile of the local collection both here at home and around the world.
"This has just been enormous. Not only is it our few minutes on the program, but just the fact that millions of viewers are going to see this, not just nationally, but internationally," says Hancharick.
She says the downtown Bakersfield museum already attracts its share of international visitors, but many local people don't know as much about it.
"A lot of our visitors are foreign visitors that come here to the United States and they actually make their destination Bakersfield to see the fossils from Shark's Tooth Hill . I hope now that our community can really see, especially because we've had so many new people move into the community in the last 30 years, that we've got world class fossils and just an awesome site right here in Kern County."
The Shark Week program that features Bakersfield's own Sharkzilla airs tonight at 9:00 p.m. in most areas, but you're advised to check your own cable or satellite listings.