Lime. A team of paleontologists on Thursday presented the skull fossil of a “sea monster” at least 12 meters long, a predator that lived 36 million years ago on the central coast of Peru that was part of an ancient ocean.
The skull, about 1.35 meters long with its elongated snout that preserves its robust teeth almost intact, was discovered last year and is part of the “basilosaurus” family or key cetaceans in the evolution of whales, said Rodolfo Salas , from the museum of the National University of San Marcos.
Salas, head of the paleontology and vertebrates area of the museum, stated that the fossil was extracted from rocks in the Ocucaje desert, located some 350 kilometers south of Lima.
“It was a sea monster,” he told a news conference. “It is the Ocucaje Basilosaurus and we think it could be a new species,” said the expert before showing the skull fossil inside a glass cube in the museum.
The expert said that the size of this basilosaurus, found in its type in other parts of the world, tells us that it fed on large marine animals, but they were also predators of larger land animals such as penguins.
“This discovery is extremely important because the skull is in a perfect state of preservation. Its teeth are complete,” added Salas. “Surely when searching and feeding, it did a lot of damage to its prey,” she said.
According to the researcher, the first cetaceans evolved from land animals 55 million years ago. Then in the “late Eocene” 36 million years ago, cetaceans had already fully adapted to marine life and roamed almost all the world’s oceans.
Salas said that “at that time the fossilization conditions were good in Ocucaje,” a desert area that is now home to important areas of grape cultivation. “The bodies quickly sank to the seabed and were buried and preserved,” he added, referring to when Ocucaje was covered by the sea.
The expert said that although the body of this basilosaurus was that of an aquatic animal, its skull was quite similar to that of its terrestrial ancestors, since it had differentiated teeth such as incisors, canines, premolars and molars and the nostrils were in the anterior part. of the skull.
The teeth of modern cetaceans are the same and their nostrils are high on the skull, behind the eyes.
“Findings like this new specimen tell us that much remains to be studied. We paleontologists hope to be able to use these animals and the context in which they are found in order to understand the conditions and changes that have occurred in the Peruvian sea over time,” said Salas.
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