A large whale that lived nearly 40 million years in the past is now regarded as the heaviest animal that has ever lived, scientists mentioned Wednesday.
The Perucetus colossus — that means the colossal whale from Peru —was even larger than the present heavyweight champion, the blue whale, in keeping with an article printed within the journal “Nature.”
The newly revealed findings have been based mostly on fossils discovered within the Peruvian desert greater than 10 years in the past, however solely simply recognized as a beforehand unknown species.
At 66 toes in size, the colossus isn’t the largest or longest creature to have lived within the seas, since blue whales can develop to a gargantuan 100 toes lengthy.
However the newly found sea mammal’s sheer bulk and its bone density means it was in all probability the heaviest and will have weighed between 94 tons (85 metric tons) and 375 tons (340 metric tons), the examine mentioned. The largest blue whales ever noticed weigh an estimated 200 tons (180 metric tons).
“The estimated skeletal mass of P. colossus exceeds that of any identified mammal or aquatic vertebrate,” the journal article mentioned, including that this makes it “a contender for the title of heaviest animal on report.”
“The physique mass of this historic cetacean might have been … nearly twice that of the biggest blue whales and greater than thrice that estimated for Argentinosaurus, one of many largest dinosaurs ever discovered,” mentioned the examine’s lead writer Giovanni Bianucci, from the College of Pisa in Italy, in a press launch.
A global staff of scientists spent years digging within the Ica desert alongside the southern coast of Peru, an space that was as soon as underwater and is famed for its paleontological discoveries.
Ultimately they uncovered and extracted 13 vertebrae, 4 ribs and a hip bone. Every vertebrae would have weighed greater than 220 kilos.
This posed fairly a problem for the analysis staff, who struggled not solely to carry the bone fossils however to totally analyze them by way of the same old strategies.
As an alternative they used pioneering structured mild scanning to make a three-dimensional mannequin of them and drilled inside.
This allowed them to estimate the whale’s measurement and weight regardless of having an incomplete skeleton.
Relationship of volcanic ash on the website means the staff may date the species to between 39.8 and 37.84 million years in the past, within the Eocene epoch.
At that time different members of the cetacean household — which incorporates dolphins and whales — have been nonetheless “abandoning the terrestrial life-style in favor of a marine one,” mentioned Elisa Malinverno, a member of the analysis staff.
The Perucetus colossus might have used its heavy skeleton as a ballast to roam across the ocean flooring, feeding alongside the seabed like modern-day sea cows and a few sharks, the examine mentioned.
“It’s simply thrilling to see such a large animal that’s so totally different from something we all know,” mentioned Hans Thewissen, a paleontologist at Northeast Ohio Medical College who had no function within the analysis, in keeping with the Related Press.
The Ica desert, one of many driest locations on Earth, can also be the place scientists discovered the oldest identified four-legged cetacean to achieve the Pacific Ocean and the earliest ancestor of the fashionable baleen whales.
This text was initially printed on NBCNews.com