Paleontologists have discovered fossilized remains of a new baleen whale in the Hakataramea Valley of New Zealand. The fossil is at least 27.5 million years old and represents one of the oldest species of baleen whales.
Baleen whales are among the largest animals on earth, which are characterized by their blowholes and bale plates. Baleen whales are widespread and have a diverse population. The new find not only extends the number of baleen whales, but also provides more insight into the prehistoric ancestors of today's whales.
The discovery was based on a skull and other bones from Kokoamu Greensand, a famous Oligocene fossil rock formation. The place was once an archipelago, surrounded by shallow seas. The new species was called Toipahautea waitaki, which is translated in Māori as "baleen origin whale from the Waitaki region".
"This is a fairly old whale dating back almost to the dinosaur era, and we are tracking the history of whales through time," said Professor Ewan Fordyce from the Geological Department of the University of Otago.
"This newly named whale lived about 27.5 million years ago and is about as old as our ancestor baleen whales like the minke whales and the whales."
The baleen fale was discovered 30 years ago in January 1
Professor Ewan Fordyce says. "We are pretty sure that there are some species (of baleen whales) that are older than these, but at the moment it anchors the modern baleen whale line to at least 27.5 million years."