FOSSIL A SURPRISE DISCOVERY
THE mysterious pygmy right whale – once thought extinct – is found now only in the Southern Ocean around Australasia and South America.
But Australian scientists were surprised to find its ancient descendants in Japan and Italy in research which will help study the impact of climate change on marine life.
“This is like finding a fossil kangaroo in Scotland. It is totally unexpected,” Museums Victoria palaeontology senior curator Dr Erich Fitzgerald said.
Very little is known about the biology and behaviour of the pygmy right whale at 6m long and 3000kg, the world’s smallest baleen whale.
Studies of it and its Northern Hemisphere ancestor hope to provide insight into environmental impact.
“They provide new insights into how climate change has profoundly impacted the distribution of whales throughout the Earth’s oceans over millennia, and also point to how living species may be impacted by climate change,” Dr Fitzgerald said.