Dirty white, like a piece of cheap marble, the oval stone lies on Eli Amson's hand. Smiling, the petite man with brown curls holds the find in front of the photographer's camera. "This is a piece of the rib of a 39 million year old whale that colleagues discovered in Peru," reports the paleontologist from the Stuttgart Natural History Museum. The 20-meter ancient whale could have weighed between 85 and 350 tons, Amson and his colleagues estimate in an article in the science magazine "Nature." At 350 tons, it would have been almost twice as heavy as a blue whale alive today. It was quite rightly given the species name Perucetus colossus: “the colossal whale from Peru”.
Only rarely do fossil mammals receive similar attention as dinosaurs, the stars among the prehistoric animals, which populate countless children's rooms as plastic figures and significantly shape our idea of vanished worlds. In this case, it was probably the sheer size that helped the ancient whale achieve such prominence. His discovery proves that gigantism among marine mammals existed 30 million years earlier than previously thought.
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