When you think of whale fossils (if you ever do think of them), you might imagine them to be exclusively found buried in the sand of the world’s beaches, or even deep beneath the surface of the sea. The reality, however, is that scientists have discovered prehistoric whales in mountain ranges, deserts, and all sorts of unusual locations.
The world is a much different place than it was thousands or millions of years ago, after all. Mountains have risen, seas have dried up, and landscape-carving volcanic eruptions have (thankfully) become far less frequent. And that’s just a few of the drastic changes the Earth has undergone over the millennia. Because of that, you never know where the next ancient creature might be unearthed.
Back in May, for example, a nearly complete whale skeleton measuring a staggering 50 feet in length was discovered in a Taiwanese jungle by accident. In a recent release, an excavation team from the National Cheng Kung University’s Archaeological Institute shared the details of their impressive find.
While searching for fossils on the island of Taiwan, the team spotted an unfamiliar sight. Four pieces of what appeared to be bone were jutting up from the ground deep in the jungle valley. Upon closer inspection, they realized the mystery bones were whale ribs, sparking a lengthy excavation project.
With the fossil fully unearthed, the scientists were even more amazed by the find. The fossil, belonging to a blue whale or “big fin whale,” was around 70 percent complete, making it the most complete specimen ever found on the island. The whale’s shoulder blades, jawbone, tail vertebrae, and even part of its skull, were all incredibly well preserved.
Eight Scientists Transported Massive Whale Fossil From Jungle Valley
According to Taiwanese scientists, the particular patch of jungle in which they discovered the whale fossil is a hotspot for ancient finds. They never expected, however, to find one so large and in such good condition. The jungle is rife with shells, sharks, and crabs. But a near-complete blue whale, the largest creature to ever exist, is something different entirely.
It took over 90 days of tireless work, but the whale fossil was finally excavated from the jungle floor. After that, the true work began. It took eight people carrying the bones on wooden stretchers to transport the fossil through the unforgiving jungle terrain and swarms of mosquitos on foot.
Zhuang Jungren, a transport volunteer, said that he had never seen jawbones longer than 3 feet. The jawbone of this whale was over 7 feet long, tipping the scales at a mammoth 736 pounds.
The university explained that the whale fossil was the second-largest mammal fossil ever found in Taiwan. The only larger skeleton belonged to a rhino discovered in 1971.
After transporting the prehistoric skeleton to the National Museum of Nature Science, researchers began the cleaning and preservation process. Scientists hope that by researching these giant fossils, they can “understand how whales adapt to environmental changes from the ice age to the present.”