Paleontologists in Peru have reported finding the skull of an unknown marine predator from 36 million years ago.
Scientists who have been excavating in Peru’s Ocucaje Desert have discovered the skull of a huge marine predator. It is likely that the creature is a new species of basilosaurus, which is thought to be the ancestor of modern whales and dolphins.
The prehistoric predator that palaeontologists described was similar to a giant sea serpent. The skull found measures 120 cm long and is filled with a suit of large, sabre-like sharp teeth.
Scientists at the National University of San Marcos (UNMSM) in Lima believe the fossil belonged to an unknown species of basilosaurus. These giant predators, measuring up to 12 metres long, inhabited Earth’s oceans around 36 million years ago.
As very little is still known about the creature, the researchers are calling it the ‘Ocucaje predator’. Paleontologists will only be able to give a formal name once the team has published a scientific description of the species.
Basilosaurus This was a real sea monster. When it hunted for food, it certainly wreaked real havoc. – Rodolfo Salas of the UNMSM Museum of Natural History said at a press conference.
According to scientists, the Ocucaje Desert was once the bottom of an ancient ocean. Basilosaurus and its predatory cousins were the very top of the food chain in this body of water. Their reign lasted from about 41 million to 34 million years ago.
“Basilosaurus” means “royal lizard” and because of its serpentine skeleton was once mistakenly taken for a marine reptile. Today it is already known that the basilosaurus was an aquatic mammal that is a distant ancestor of modern whales and dolphins.
The Ocucaje Desert is full of fossils from prehistoric times. Paleontologists date the age of some of them at around 42 million years. Excavations that researchers have carried out in past years have revealed many other fossils. They provide great material showing how the ancestors of today’s marine mammals and fish, such as sharks, evolved.
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