A colossal ancient whale could be the heaviest animal to ever walk on Earth

A colossal ancient whale discovered in Peru could be the heaviest animal ever recorded, according to a new study.

A recent discovery challenges what we know the largest animals that have ever inhabited our planet. The extinct whale called Perucetus colossus, or “the colossal whale of Peru”it is perhaps the heaviest animal that has ever existed on our planet.

The huge fossil remains of the gigantic animal are believed to be around 39 million years old. They were found in the desert of Icaa once underwater region, located in south-central Peru, just over 300 kilometers from Lima.

Gigantic fossils of Perucetus colossus

This giant creature tells the story of an animal of incredible proportions. Each of its vertebrae weighs over 220 pounds (100 kilograms) and its ribs stretch almost 1.4 meters (5 feet) in length.

With an estimated body mass of 85 to 340 metric tons (187,393 to 749,572 pounds), the weight of the now-extinct colossus Perucetus is equal to or greater than that of the blue whale, which had unquestionably been considered the animal with the greatest body mass. until now. , as indicated Giovanni Bianuccifirst author of the study.

Bones of the Colossus Perucetus. Credit: R. Salas-Gismondi.

The partial skeleton of Perucetus, consisting of 13 vertebrae, four ribs, and a hip bone, is estimated to be 17–20 meters (55.8–65.6 ft) long. While the fossil specimen is shorter than that of a blue whale at 25 meters long (82 feet long), but its skeletal mass still potentially exceeded that of any known marine mammal or vertebrate, including its gigantic relative, according to the study.

They found 13 gigantic vertebrae, one of which weighed more than 200 kilos, as well as four ribs and a coxal bone. Credit: Aldo Benites-Palomino.

It is more, Perucetus probably weighed two to three times as much as the blue whale.which today weighs a maximum of 149.6 metric tons (330,000 lb).

“Perucetus could have weighed close to two blue whales, three argentinosaurus (a giant sauropod dinosaur), more than 30 African elephants and up to 5,000 people,” said Bianucci, who is also an associate professor of paleontology in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Pisa in Italy.

Characteristics of the huge creature

Perucetus probably swam slowly due to his enormous body mass and swimming style, which was undulatory and anguliform, meaning his flexible body moved in curving waves from head to tail.

Perucetus bones “are made of extremely dense and compact bone,” Bianucci said. This type of skeletal thickening and heaviness, called pachyosteosclerosis, which Peruketus shares with the sirenians it is not found in any living cetacean.

He Perucetus weight and height they could have been evolutionary adaptations to life in shallow, choppy coastal waters, where a particularly heavy skeleton acts as “ballast” for stability.

Study the Colossus of Perucetus

The first vertebra of Perucetus was discovered more than 10 years ago by Peruvian paleontologist Mario Urbina Schmitt, study co-author, researcher and field collector in the Department of Vertebrate Paleontology at the Museum of Natural History. ‘Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos a Chaux.

According to scientists’ estimates, Perucetus colossus weighed about 200 tons, more than any blue whale. Credit: Aldo Benites-Palomino.

Later in this area at least 13 gigantic vertebrae of the colossus Perucetus have been found. One of them weighed more than 200 kilos. Experts searched and also found four huge ribs and a hip bone.

The discovery is the result of hard work in the Peruvian desert. 1 credit

After years of painstaking excavations, the research team applied modern technology to further study the bones of the Colossus Perucetus. They used 3D scanners to scan the surface and even drilled holes to look inside.

Based on the massive but incomplete skeleton, experts calculated the whale’s height and weight by comparing it to modern marine mammals, the study author explained, Eli Amsonpaleontologist at the National Museum of Natural History in Stuttgart, Germany.

The 3D model compares the size of Perucetus colossus with the blue whale, a smaller close relative (Cynthiacetus peruvianus) and a human. Credit: Florent Goussard/Natural History Museum/Marco Merella.

The team’s calculations showed the weight and body length of the huge whalerevealing that it was “probably the heaviest animal of all time”, but clarified that it was “probably not the longest animal of all time”.

Some questions still unresolved

The lack of a skull leaves unanswered questions about the prehistoric whale’s diet and how it managed to maintain such a massive body. While some speculate that Perucetus colossus may have rummaged on the seabed or consumed large numbers of krill and tiny sea creatures, paleontologist Dr. Hans Thewissen of Northeastern Ohio Medical University isn’t so sure, saying “I wouldn’t be surprised if he fed in a totally different way than we ever imagined.”

You may also be interested: 43 million year old fossil of a four-legged whale discovered in Egypt.

The discovery of Perucetus colossus opens a new chapter in our understanding of the prehistoric marine life. It presents scientists and enthusiasts with a glimpse of an ancient world where giants roamed the seas, challenging our knowledge of nature’s limits.

The research was published in the journal Nature.

References: Infobae / BBC / National Geographic.

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