"The Heaviest Animal Ever? Enormous Whale, Dating Back 40 Million Years, Discovered in Desert"



"Experts Estimate Perucetus Colossus Could Have Weighed as Much as 375 Tons"

Scientists announced on Wednesday that a colossal whale, known as the Perucetus colossus, which lived approximately 40 million years ago, is now believed to be the heaviest animal to have ever existed. Surpassing the current heavyweight champion, the blue whale, the Perucetus colossus earned its name from its enormous size and was recently identified as a previously unknown species based on fossils discovered in the Peruvian desert over a decade ago. The remarkable findings were published in the journal "Nature."

The Heaviest Animal Ever? Enormous Whale, Dating Back 40 Million Years, Discovered in Desert

Measuring 66 feet in length, the colossus, despite not being the longest or largest creature to have inhabited the seas, as blue whales can reach an astonishing length of 100 feet, stands out due to its immense size and bone density, making it likely the heaviest. According to the study, the newly discovered sea mammal's weight could have ranged from 94 tons (85 metric tons) to a staggering 375 tons (340 metric tons). In comparison, the largest observed blue whales weigh an estimated 200 tons (180 metric tons).

The journal article stated, "The estimated skeletal mass of P. colossus exceeds that of any known mammal or aquatic vertebrate," positioning it as a strong contender for the title of the heaviest animal ever recorded.

Giovanni Bianucci, the lead author of the study from the University of Pisa in Italy, remarked in a press release, "The body mass of this ancient cetacean may have been... nearly twice that of the largest blue whales and more than three times the estimated weight of Argentinosaurus, one of the largest dinosaurs ever discovered."

The Heaviest Animal Ever? Enormous Whale, Dating Back 40 Million Years, Discovered in Desert

An international team of scientists dedicated several years to excavating in the Ica desert, located along the southern coast of Peru. This region, once submerged underwater, has gained fame for its significant paleontological discoveries.

After considerable effort, the team successfully unearthed and retrieved 13 vertebrae, four ribs, and a hip bone. Remarkably, each vertebra weighed more than 220 pounds.

Analyzing these massive bone fossils posed a considerable challenge for the researchers. Conventional methods of lifting and examining them proved difficult due to their size and weight. To overcome this obstacle, the team employed innovative structured light scanning techniques to create a three-dimensional model of the bones. They also utilized drilling to gain further insights.

Through this novel approach, the scientists were able to estimate the size and weight of the whale, even though the skeletal remains were incomplete.

The dating of volcanic ash at the excavation site enabled the research team to determine that the species, Perucetus colossus, lived approximately between 39.8 and 37.84 million years ago, during the Eocene epoch.

During this period, other members of the cetacean family, which includes dolphins and whales, were in the process of transitioning from a terrestrial lifestyle to a marine one, as explained by Elisa Malinverno, a member of the research team.

The Perucetus colossus might have utilized its massive skeleton as a ballast to navigate the ocean floor, similar to modern-day sea cows and certain sharks, enabling it to feed along the seabed.

Hans Thewissen, a paleontologist at Northeast Ohio Medical University not involved in the research, expressed excitement over the discovery, stating, "It's just exciting to see such a giant animal that's so different from anything we know," as reported by the Associated Press.

Notably, the Ica desert, one of the driest places on Earth, has been a site of significant paleontological findings, including the discovery of the oldest known four-legged cetacean to reach the Pacific Ocean and the earliest ancestor of modern baleen whales.

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