Scientists have discovered fossils of an ancient giant whale that could potentially challenge the blue whale as the heaviest animal to have ever existed. The species, named Perucetus colossus or “the colossal whale from Peru,” was described in a study published in the journal Nature. The fossils were found in the Ica desert in Peru, a region known for its rich marine fossils.
The bones, which are 39 million years old, include 13 vertebrae, four ribs, and a hip bone. Each vertebra weighs over 220 pounds (100 kilograms), and the ribs measure nearly 5 feet (1.4 meters) in length. Using 3D scanners and drilling into the bones, researchers estimated that the ancient giant weighed between 94 and 375 tons (85 and 340 metric tons). This range falls within the weight of the largest blue whales, which can reach around 200 tons (180 metric tons). However, the Perucetus colossus may not have been the longest animal, despite potentially being the heaviest.
Due to its super-dense and heavy bones, the Perucetus colossus may have inhabited shallow coastal waters. This characteristic is seen in other coastal dwellers, such as manatees, which also have heavy bones to help them stay close to the seafloor. It is still uncertain what this ancient giant whale ate to sustain its enormous body, as the skull was not found. It is speculated that it may have scavenged along the seafloor or consumed large quantities of krill and other small sea creatures.
The discovery of the Perucetus colossus is significant as it adds to our understanding of the diversity of ancient marine life. The study highlights the excitement and fascination among researchers for such a giant animal that is different from anything previously known.