Fos­sil of old­est baleen whale found

Down to Earth - - THE FORTNIGHT -

SCI­EN­TISTS HAVE dis­cov­ered the fos­sil of what is be­ing con­sid­ered the old­est-known rel­a­tive of modern baleen whales. Dat­ing back to 36.4 mil­lion years ago, the fos­sil has been ex­ca­vated from the Pisco Basin on Peru's south­ern coast and iden­ti­fied as Mys­ta­codon se­le­nen­sis. Its ap­pear­ance is a mix­ture of char­ac­ter­is­tics be­long­ing to an­cient and modern whales. Its flat snout re­sem­bles that of modern baleen whales. But its pelvic bone fits more with an­ces­tral whales, com­plete with ar­eas where the leg bones would typ­i­cally slot in. That has led sci­en­tists to con­clude that it still had tiny legs pro­trud­ing from the body. It also had teeth, un­like modern baleen whales, and might have sucked its prey from the ocean floor. Be­fore this find­ing, the old­est known baleen whale fos­sil to be found was 34 mil­lion years old. M se­le­nen­sis is the first whale fos­sil found south of the equa­tor.

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