História de uma baleia de 4.5 milhões de anos atrás encontrada na Espanha

quinta-feira, dezembro 24, 2009

Story of 4.5-Million-Year-Old Whale Found in Spain

ScienceDaily (Dec. 22, 2009) — In 2006, a team of Spanish and American researchers found the fossil remains of a whale, 4.5 million years old, in Bonares, Huelva. Now they have published, for the first time, the results of the decay and fossilisation process that started with the death of the young cetacean, possibly a baleen whale from the Mysticeti group.

These are vertebra colonized by bivalves. (Credit: Esperante et al.)

This is not the first discovery of the partial fossil remains of a whale from the Lower Pliocene (five million years ago) in the Huelva Sands sedimentary formation, but it is the first time that the results of the processes of fossilisation and fossil deposition following the death of a whale have been published.

The work of this international group, published in the latest issue of Geologica Acta, is the first taphonomic (fossilisation process) study done on cetacean remains combined with other paleontological disciplines such as ichnology (the study of trace fossils).

"Once the whale was dead, its body was at the mercy of scavengers such as sharks, and we know that one of these voracious attacks resulted in one of its fins being pulled off and moved about ten metres. It remained in this position in the deposit studied," Fernando Muñiz, one of the study's authors and a researcher in the University of Huelva's "Tectonics and Paleontology" research group, currently working as a palaeontologist for the City Council of Lepe, in Huelva, said.

The researchers have described the fossil remains discovered in Bonares, Huelva, at an altitude of 80 metres above sea level and 24 kilometres from the sea, and have studied the main taxonomic characteristics and associated fauna. The team also created a paleoenvironmental model to explain how the skeleton -- which is incomplete apart from some pieces such as its three-metre-long hemimandibular jaw bones -- was deposited.

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Journal Reference:

Esperante, R., Muñiz Guinea, F., and Nick, K.E. Taphonomy of a Mysticeti whale in the Lower Pliocene Huelva Sands Formation (Southern Spain). Geologica Acta, 7(4): 489-504, December 2009


This paper reports the occurrence of an incomplete fossil baleen whale skeleton in the Lower Pliocene Huelva Sands Formation (Guadalquivir basin) near the town of Bonares, southwestern Spain. The skeleton was found in the highly bioturbated glauconitic sandstone unit in association with Neopycnodonte cochlear shells. Several morphological features of the mandibles, scapula and vertebrae suggest that the specimen belongs in the suborden Mysticeti, family Balaenopteridae. Most bones show abrasion due to a long exposure on the seafloor, and some bones show shark tooth marks and both micro- and macro-bioerosion by scavengers. The position of the bones suggests that the carcass landed on the seafloor on its left side and then turned right side up. Sedimentological and paleontological features indicate that the whale was buried in shallow platform waters under low sedimentation rates.

Keywords: Baleen whale. Mysticeti. Neogene. Guadalquivir basin.

DOI: 10.1344/105.000001451