Not only is this the largest blue whale fossil ever uncovered, but it also indicates that the species lived 1.5 million years earlier than we thought.

Scientists have long known that the blue whale is the largest animal that has ever lived. What hasn’t been known until now, however, is that the ocean giant roamed the planet far earlier than previously established — 1.5 million years ago, during the early Pleistocene. And we now know this thanks to the largest ancient blue whale fossil ever found.

According to National Geographic, the 85-foot-long specimen is now officially the largest on record. Though its size falls short of modern-day blue whales by 15 feet, the find has more consequential ramifications to consider.

Published in the journal Biology Letters, the research described an impressively large skull and suggests the fossil’s age has forced evolutionary biologists to reassess the entire species’ historical timeline.

“The fact that such a large whale existed that long ago suggests that large whales had been around for quite a while,” said study co-author Felix Marx, a paleontologist at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences in Brussels. “I don’t think species can evolve to such a size overnight.”

Finding whale fossils that are older than 2.5 million years is extremely rare, making it just as difficult to establish just what made blue whales into the behemoths they are. With numerous ice ages freezing parts of the world’s oceans and lowering sea levels during this timeframe, the remains of whales that died are likely relegated to dozens of feet below sea level.

As for this particular 85-footer, the fossil was essentially stumbled upon in 2006 by a southern Italian farmer near Matera. When he noticed some large vertebrae protruding from a lake he used to irrigate his fields, he made sure to let an interested party know.

Read more: https://allthatsinteresting.com/largest-blue-whale-fossil

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