36 Million Year Old Fossil Found


via Wikimedia Commons

An image of a basilosaurus, whose species originally walked on land.

A 36 million-year-old fossil was recently discovered in the Peruvian desert by a group of paleontologists. The remains of a prehistoric whale were found in Peru’s Ocucaje Desert, once being a predator at the top of the prehistoric food chain. Paleontologists led by Mario Urbina uncovered the fossil. Mario has been working for about 30 years on the Cenozoic marine deposits of the Pisco Basin (southern Peru) and focusing on both geology and paleontology. They found it 215 miles south of Lima, in the Otuma rock formation. The location looks very different compared to back when the whale was alive. Currently, the desert is large, dry, and flat, but millions of years ago, it was a shallow ocean brimming with sea life. The desert has only been partially explored, and already, paleontologists have found 42 million years’ worth of evolutionary evidence. The “sea monster” skull fossil was identified as Basilosaurus, and it is currently being displayed at the National University of San Marcos. The scientists suspect that when the king lizard (Basilosaurus) died, it sank to the bottom of the seafloor, getting covered by sediment. It was so well preserved because it was covered by sediment, and it was preserved like that for millions of years. Rodolfo Alfonso, one of the team members, stated that the Basilosaurus fossil differed in size and teeth development from other males, so this likely translates to the whale being at the top of the food chain. Scientists have identified that the diet of the Basilosaurus is mainly comprised of fish, penguins, tuna, sharks, and schools of sardines. The skull of the creature is measured at 4 feet long, and it is predicted that the full creature was 39-55 feet long. The Basilosaurus evolved from land animals 55 million years ago. Hippopotamus are one of the creatures that cetaceans and the Basilosaurus evolved from. The finding was significant because scientists have not found any other similar specimens discovered in the world. Thanks to the fossil type, the scientists can hopefully reconstruct the layout of the ancient Peruvian sea. Another sea dragon was found at the Rutland Water Nature Reserve in the United Kingdom. Other discoveries found in the Ocucaje Desert include four-legged dwarf whales, dolphins, and sharks. There are more fossils to be discovered in the world and more advancements in science to be made to uncover the mysteries of the prehistoric world.