FOS­SIL A SUR­PRISE DIS­COV­ERY

Weekend Gold Coast Bulletin - - NEWS -

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.

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