The Beacon

Blog Tags: Fossils

Recent Marine Fossil Discoveries Provide Insight on Ancient Ocean Inhabitants

Ancient marine fossil discoveries provide insight on early oceans

Spinosaurus aegyptiacus skull, the first semi-aquatic dinosaur known to exist. (Photo: Didier Descouens / Wikimedia Commons)

It’s no surprise that the oceans are home to some of the most fascinating animals, from the massive blue whale, the world’s largest animal, to creatures like octopus and squid that can change their coloration instantly. But it’s not just modern-day ocean inhabitants that are awe-inspiring and sometimes frightening: Many of the oldest, extinct ocean creatures are just as impressive.


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Whale Wednesday: Tiny and Weird Edition

An Australian paleobiologist has made a curious discovery about the origins of baleen whales. Studying the 25-million-year-old fossil of a primitive toothed baleen whale, Mammalodon colliveri, Dr. Erich Fitzgerald hypothesized that the early whale used its tongue and short, blunt snout to suck small prey from sand and mud on the seafloor. Yummy.

Fitzgerald’s work supports Darwin's notion that some of the earliest baleen whales may have been mudsuckers before they were filter-feeders.

And apparently the three-meter-long Mammalodon was actually a dwarf, though its name brings to mind its relative, the blue whale -- the largest animall in the history of the world.

As Dr. Fitzgerald said, “Clearly the seas off southern Australia were a cradle for the evolution of a variety of tiny, weird whales that seem to have lived nowhere else.”


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