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In Peru, skull of ‘marine monster’ points to fearsome ancient predator

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A Basilosaurus whale fossil dating back 36 million years is displayed at the Museum of Natural History after its discovery in the Ocucaje desert, in Lima, Peru March 17, 2022. REUTERS/Sebastian Castaneda

A Basilosaurus whale fossil relationship again 36 million years is displayed on the Museum of Natural History after its discovery within the Ocucaje desert, in Lima, Peru March 17, 2022. REUTERS/Sebastian Castaneda

LIMA — Paleontologists have unearthed the skull of a ferocious marine predator, an ancient ancestor of modern-day whales, which as soon as lived in a prehistoric ocean that lined half of what’s now Peru, scientists introduced on Thursday.

The roughly 36-million-year-old well-preserved skull was dug up intact final 12 months from the bone-dry rocks of Peru’s southern Ocucaje desert, with rows of lengthy, pointy tooth, Rodolfo Salas, chief of paleontology at Peru’s National University of San Marcos, informed reporters at a information convention.

Scientists suppose the ancient mammal was a basilosaurus, half of the aquatic cetacean household, whose up to date descendants embrace whales, dolphins and porpoises.

Basilosaurus means “king lizard,” though the animal was not a reptile, although its lengthy physique may need moved like an enormous snake.

The one-time prime predator probably measured some 12 meters (39 toes) lengthy, or in regards to the peak of a four-story constructing.

“It was a marine monster,” mentioned Salas, including the skull, which has already been placed on show on the college’s museum, might belong to a brand new species of basilosaurus.

“When it was searching for its food, it surely did a lot of damage,” added Salas.

Scientists imagine the primary cetaceans advanced from mammals that lived on land some 55 million years in the past, about 10 million years after an asteroid struck simply off what’s now Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, wiping out most life on Earth, together with the dinosaurs.

Salas defined that when the ancient basilosaurus died, its skull probably sunk to the underside of the ocean ground, the place it was shortly buried and preserved.

“Back during this age, the conditions for fossilization were very good in Ocucaje,” he mentioned.

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