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36-million-year-old whale fossil found in Peruvian desert

  • Published
    24th Mar, 2022
Context

Palaeontologists recently unveiled the fossilized remains of an ancient whale that inhabited the seas 36 million years ago, found last year in a Peruvian desert.

About

About the fossil:

  • The basilosaurus was found at the end of 2021 in the Ocucaje Desert, about 350 Km south of Lima.
  • The desolate landscape was a shallow sea millions of years ago, and its dunes have yielded large numbers of striking primitive sea mammal remains.
  • The "Ocucaje Predator," was about 17 meters (55 feet) long and used its massive, powerful teeth to feed on tuna, sharks and schools of sardines.
  • The basilosaurus differs from other known ancient whale species by its size and the development of its teeth, both of which indicate the animal was likely at the top of the food chain.
  • This is an extraordinary find because of its great state of preservation.
  • The Ocucaje Desert is rich in fossils.
  • Other fossils found there include four-legged dwarf whales, dolphins, sharks and other species from the Miocene period (between 23 million and five million years ago).

About Basilosaurus:

  • The Basilosaurus is the first ancient whale humanity has ever found.
    • But back when it was first described, the animal’s huge proportions earned it the name of ‘king lizard’.
  • This creature lived 40 to 35 million years ago, during a part of geologic time known as the late Eocene.
  • The dinosaurs were quite well gone by this time, and mammals were well on the way to dominating the planet.
    • The Basilosaurus was also a mammal — a whale, no less — and could grow up to 60 feet (a bit over 18m) in length.
  • Basilosaurus had primitive dentition and skull architecture; the rest of the slender, elongated skeleton was well adapted to aquatic life.
  • It attained a length of about 21 metres (about 70 feet), with the skull alone as much as 1.5 metres (5 feet) long.
  • Basilosaurus was common throughout late Eocene seas.

About Ocucaje Desert:

  • It is located in the southern part of the Province of Ica, Peru.

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