Skull of a ferocious whale ancestor, the “Ocucaje Predator”, discovered in Peru


Researchers digging in the Ocucaje desert in Peru have discovered the skull of a huge marine predator thought to be the ancestor of modern whales and dolphins.

Four feet long (1.2 meters) and lined with knife-like teeth, the skull appears to be a new species of Basilosaurus – a genus of ferocious marine mammals that lived around 36 million years ago during the Eocene epoch, said researchers from the National University of San Marcos (UNMSM) in Lima Reuters. From snout to tail, the creature was likely about 39 feet (12 meters) long, about the size of a city bus.

For now, researchers are calling this ancient beast the “Ocucaje Predator.” It will not be officially named until the team publishes a scientific description of the species in a peer-reviewed journal.

“It was a sea monster,” Rodolfo Salas, founder and director of the department of paleontology at the UNMSM Natural History Museum, told Reuters and other media at a press conference on March 17. . “When he was looking for his food, it sure did a lot of damage.”

Related: Image Gallery: 25 Amazing Ancient Beasts

Artist’s rendering of what Basilosaurus looked like in Eocene seas (Image credit: Dominik Hammelsbruch/CC 4.0)

According to researchers, the Ocucaje Desert was once the bottom of an ancient ocean. Basilosaurus and its fierce cousins ​​swam these seas as apex predators 41 to 34 million years ago, gliding through the water with bodies that looked like huge snakesbut with a large pair of fins near the head.

Basilosaurusmeans “lizard king,” and the creature’s serpentine skeleton was once mistaken for a marine reptile, according to Smithsonian. Scientists now know that Basilosaurus was a mammal – a fully aquatic cetacean, like the whales and dolphins that would follow it millions of years later.

The first ancestors of whales were mammals that lived on land full time, then gradually evolved to be semi-aquatic for millions of years, Previously reported Live Science. Beginning around 55 million years ago – 10 million years after the mass extinction that killed the dinosaurs — the ancestors of whales eventually became entirely aquatic, giving rise to the first cetaceans. Today there are more than 90 species of cetaceans.

The Ocucaje Desert is full of fossils, some dating back more than 42 million years, researchers say. Previous excavations have uncovered other ancestors of whales, dolphins, sharks and other creatures of the ancient depths.

Originally posted on Live Science.


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