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Weird NewsFossil of 85-foot blue whale is largest ever discovered

15:15  01 may  2019
15:15  01 may  2019 Source:   nationalgeographic.com

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Prehistoric 'Sea Monster' May Be Largest That Ever Lived. Finding the 85 - foot ichthyosaur hints that other Biology textbook have long touted the modern blue whale as the largest animal that ever lived, but this Most ichthyosaurs were much smaller than the newly discovered creature—several

A jawbone fossil found on an English beach appears to belong to the biggest marine reptile ever discovered , an ichthyosaur that approached the size of a blue whale . Scientists said on Monday this ichthyosaur, seen in a reconstruction, appears to be the largest marine reptile ever discovered .

Fossil of 85-foot blue whale is largest ever discovered © Photograph by Flip Nicklin, Minden Pictures

An aerial view of the Sea of Cortez reveals an 80-foot blue whale gliding through the waves. A fossil found in Italy shows that blue whales reached these behemoth sizes as far back as 1.5 million years ago.

The blue whale is not only the largest animal alive today, it is the largest one that has ever lived. Now, analysis of a fossil found on the shore of an Italian lake hints at when, and perhaps how, the blue whale became such a behemoth.

The beast’s very large skull, described today in the journal Biology Letters, confirms that this ancient blue whale is the largest known in the fossil record, reaching a whopping 85 feet long. That’s just shy of the largest modern blue whales on record, which reach up to a hundred feet. Perhaps even more surprising to scientists, though, is the fact that a whale of this size swam the seas around 1.5 million years ago, during the early Pleistocene—far earlier than previously thought.

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The blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) is a marine mammal belonging to the baleen whale parvorder, Mysticeti. At up to 29.9 metres (98 ft)

By contrast, blue whales can reach nearly 100 feet in length and weigh as much as 200 short tons, with females generally outweighing males. Some ichthyosaur fossils discovered have shown the creatures to giving birth to live, developed young. Unlike dinosaurs, which ichthyosaurs have been

Fossil of 85-foot blue whale is largest ever discovered © Illustration by Alberto Gennari

An illustration shows how a modern human diver would have measured up to the ancient whale.

“The fact that such a large whale existed that long ago suggests that large whales had been around for quite a while,” says study coauthor Felix Marx, a paleontologist at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences in Brussels. “I don’t think species can evolve to such a size overnight.”

Fossil of 85-foot blue whale is largest ever discovered © Photograph by Akhet s.r.l.; drawing and composition by G. Bianucci and F. Marx

The fossil skull of the Matera whale (left) helped scientists create this reconstruction of the full skull for an anatomical analysis.

A whale of a find

Fossil of 85-foot blue whale is largest ever discovered © Diagram modified from Graham J. Slater et al.; blue whale drawing by Carl Buell

A chart shows the changing body length of baleen whales plotted against time. Red circles show the posistions of the Matera whale along with three unexcavated fossils found in Peru.

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Until recently, the largest animal that ever lived was believed to be the blue whale — which still But the mighty mammal might have to give up its status as the world’s largest , in light of a new fossil At about 85 feet long, the 205-million-year-old ichthyosaur was roughly the size of a modern blue whale

Figuring out how blue whales came to be so big has been a challenge, as large whale fossils from the past 2.5 million years are rare. This is likely because the planet went through a number of ice ages during this period, when plenty of water froze into ice and sea levels dropped dramatically. The remains of whales that died in those days, even if they stranded on land, may now be many dozens of feet below sea level. (A 27.5-million-year-old fossil recently found in New Zealand belongs to one of the oldest known ancestors of baleen whales.)

In 2006, a farmer near the southern Italian town of Matera saw some very large vertebrae sticking out of the clay on the shore of a lake he uses to irrigate his fields. Over the course of three fall seasons, when it was possible to lower the water level without ruining the harvest, Italian paleontologist Giovanni Bianucci of the University of Pisa and his team dug out the remains.

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jaw bone of a 85 - foot long sea monster belongs to 'one of the largest animals ever discovered '. Experts say it indicates the new species approached the size of a blue whale . It also solves a 150 A giant ichthyosaur fossil found in Somerset belongs to one of the largest animals ever to have lived at

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The team at the time thought the fossils might belong to a blue whale, and the new anatomical studies have now confirmed it.

The new fossil might also help reveal that the rise of giant whales has been more gradual than previously believed, argues Marx. In 2017, a study analyzing the body size of all known baleen whale species, many of them only known from fossils, suggested an increase in body size may have happened rather suddenly, likely some 300,000 years ago but possibly as far as back as 4.5 million years.

When Marx included the new fossil in this analysis, however, “the most probable date was pushed back to 3.6 million years, and likely even further, possibly as far back as six million years.”

Surplus of small fossils

Graham Slater of the University of Chicago, who did the original analysis, points out that 3.6 million years still fits in the rather large time window he had found. And even if the most probable date for the size jump is pushed back that far, he says, the revised date of 3.6 million years ago makes sense.

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The blue whale is believed to be the largest animal to have ever lived. The largest land animal classification is also dominated by mammals, with the African bush elephant The largest organism in the world, according to mass, is the aspen tree whose colonies of clones can grow up to five miles long.

The 85 - foot -long dinosaur, whose remains were discovered in 2005 in Argentina but took years to excavate and prepare for study, is among the largest Its skeleton, unearthed in the Patagonia region of Argentina, is the first of this species and the most complete ever found in the group of gargantuan

Around that time, a global decrease in ocean temperature likely changed the availability of food to whales, creating patches of very high prey density where there was upwelling of cold water from the deep, which he believes was “important for supporting really large whales.” Slater does not agree with Marx that the new analysis favors an even older origin for blue whale bigness. (See a prehistoric “sea monster” that lived about 200 million years ago and was about the same size as this fossil whale.)

It is true that the analysis as such does not directly confirm that scenario, Marx admits. But his point of view is informed by what he believes is yet to come. Because large whale fossils are difficult to collect, study, and describe, our view of body-size evolution in whales may be distorted. Marx is involved in a project in Peru that has found multiple whale fossils that have not been recovered yet. Although the data is preliminary, including them in the analysis further weakens the impression of a sudden shift, he says.

“I’m aware of multiple large whales of at least the same age that haven’t been described yet” in the scientific literature, he says. Every additional large whale fossil we find and document, he thinks, will make the idea of a gradual change more likely.

Paleontologist Cheng-Hsiu Tsai of the National Taiwan University described the sparse remains of what was likely the second-largest fossil whale found so far, a fin whale from California. He has been arguing for a while that baleen whales became big much earlier than was generally believed, and he largely agrees with Marx’s conclusions.

“To be honest, this fossil does not surprise me at all,” Tsai says. “I expect that we should find something bigger and geologically even older soon.”

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