Scientists in Peru have unearthed remains of an enormous whale species that lived 39 million years ago, revealing that it was larger than any whale that exists today.
The basilosaurid whale, named Perucetus colossus, likely weighed over twice as much as a blue whale, making it the heaviest animal known to have ever lived. Researchers estimate it weighed up to 750,000 pounds, or 340,000 kilograms.
Paleontologists discovered partial skeletal remains of P. colossus 30 years ago in Ica Province, Peru. They unearthed 13 vertebrae, four ribs and a hip bone.
Lead researcher Eli Amson said that due to the whale’s sheer size, unearthing the fossils took a long time. Each vertebra alone weighed 330 pounds.
Only a limited number of bones were found, with much of the animal’s remains decaying over time. Researchers believe the whale’s dense bones required lighter soft tissues to remain buoyant, enabling it to slowly glide through the water similar to manatees.
Amson said in terms of weight, P. colossus was “definitely bulkier than a blue whale.” However, its overall length was shorter at 66 feet. Researchers estimate its soft tissue and blubber could have increased its bulk while keeping it buoyant.
The team suggests P. colossus likely had an unusual appearance, comparing it to a modern manatee but with a tiny head, enormous body and smaller limbs – an adaptation that helped it remain buoyant.
Check out the full report via LiveScience.