A fossil of a blue whale, the largest living animal, was found on the shore of a lake near Matera, Italy. The relative research, published in Biology Letters, confirms that it is the largest fossil ever found since it reaches a length of almost 26 meters (today’s blue whales can reach lengths that exceed 30 meters).
Among other things, this discovery shows that whales of this size already existed during the first Pleistocene, about 1.5 million years ago, i.e. earlier than people thought. Little information is available precisely because fossils of whales of this size are quite rare. It is thought that almost all of them are buried several tens of meters under the seabed because many of these whales died during the beginning of the various ice ages when the sea began to freeze and its level decreased dramatically.
Excavations for this discovery have been underway since 2006, when a farmer in the province of Matera sighted unusual gigantic vertebrae sticking out of the clay on the shore of Lake San Giuliano. It was during this period that the paleontologist Giovanni Bianucci from the University of Pisa, together with his team, began digging to have the remains revered.
The suspicions that it was a blue whale were strong and the confirmation came with the study that appeared today.
The fossil is also important because it makes us understand several things about the evolution of whales. It is believed that these animals, at a given moment during their evolutionary path, have “suddenly” enlarged.
According to a previous theory, this enlargement could have happened a few hundred thousand years ago, but this new discovery, according to Felix Marx, paleontologist of the Belgian Royal Institute of Natural Sciences, Brussels and author of the research, pushes this event back in time, probably up to 6 million years ago.
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