A nearly complete skeleton of an ancient whale was found in Taiwan, measuring 50 feet long, the most complete whale specimen ever found on the island.
In May, Zhou Wenbo, a member of the whale fossil excavation team of the Institute of Archeology of Chengda University, and Zhang Yumu, a local fossil collector, found four ribs of the whale sticking out of the ground when they were looking for fossils. After some preliminary digging in the jungle valley, they contacted Yang Zirui who was in the university.
The fossil, nearly 70 percent complete, is estimated to be that of a blue whale, or “big fin whale,” that lived about 85,000 years ago. A press release from National Cheng Kung University said the whale’s shoulder blade, jawbone, back of the skull and tailbone were all well preserved.
About 50 million years ago, whales evolved from land animals, splitting off from their common ancestor, the hippopotamus. The blue whale is the largest creature that ever lived, growing up to 98 feet, followed by the fin whale at a record 85 feet. The earliest modern blue whale specimen ever found was identified from a fossilized skull in southern Italy, and the creatures are thought to have lived between 1.5 million and 1.25 million years ago. Blue whales and fin whales are thought to be evolutionarily related, like humans and gorillas, having evolved into separate species from their common ancestor about 3.5 million years ago.
Zhou said Hengchun’s Tougou area is a fossil hotspot, where many fossils of shells, sharks, crabs and whale bones have been found.
The 50-foot specimen was excavated in Hengchun by Yang, an assistant professor in the Department of Earth Sciences at National Cheng Kung University, and other researchers, as well as several students from the National Museum of Natural Science and Chengdu University of Technology.
This Taiwanese fossil was excavated over 90 days, transported back to the university on foot, and stored in the National Museum of Natural Science.According to the release, the heaviest whale jawbone “weighed 334 kg [736 pounds] is 223 cm [7.3 feet] long. “
Rescue volunteer Zhuang Jingren said at the press conference that he had never seen a jawbone larger than 3.2 feet. Eight men carried the bones on wooden stretchers through rough terrain and lush vegetation.
The skeleton is the second largest mammal fossil ever found in Taiwan, after some rhino fossils were found in 1971, the university said. The Hayasaka rhinoceros skeleton, discovered in Zuozhen District, Tainan City, is a specimen of a rhinoceros species believed to have lived only in Taiwan during the Pleistocene period, between 2.5 million and 11,700 years ago.almost complete skeleton Rhinoceros Displayed at the Fossil Park in Zuozhen, Tainan City.
The science museum’s geology team will continue to clean up the whalebone specimens. The scientists hope that further study of the fossils will “help understand how whales have adapted to environmental changes from the Ice Age to the present.”
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