Scientists have unearthed fossils of an early whale in Peru, named Perucetus colossus, that lived about 38-40 million years ago and might be the most massive animal ever known, possibly surpassing the blue whale. The researchers estimated that Perucetus was around 66 feet long and weighed up to 340 metric tons. Despite the lack of cranial or tooth remains, they believe Perucetus led a lifestyle similar to the modern manatee, feeding near the bottom of shallow coastal waters, but its exact diet remains uncertain.
- The ancient whale, Perucetus colossus, is believed to have lived during the Eocene epoch, about 38-40 million years ago, and its size may surpass the blue whale, previously considered the largest animal ever.
- The partial skeleton of Perucetus, which included 13 vertebrae, four ribs, and one hip bone, was found in a coastal desert of southern Peru, an area known for its rich whale fossil deposits.
- The bones of Perucetus exhibited a unique characteristic, called pachyosteosclerosis, indicating extremely dense and compact bone structure, which is absent in modern whales but found in manatees and dugongs.
- The researchers believe Perucetus likely had a lifestyle similar to sirenians, or sea cows, feeding near the bottom of shallow coastal waters, although without cranial or tooth remains, its exact diet remains unknown.
- Paleontologists suggest the discovery of Perucetus provides evidence of gigantism developing at least twice in cetaceans: once with modern large baleen whales and earlier, about 40 million years ago, with the Basilosaurus relatives, including Perucetus.