It's a serious contender for the heaviest animal to have ever existed on Earth.
A chonker of an ancient whale with a comically small head and fins has emerged as a serious contender for the title of heaviest animal to have ever existed on Earth, according to a team of paleontologists who just published a paper about the truly massive mammal in the science journal Nature.
Weighing anywhere between 187,000 to 705,000 pounds, the only extant fossil of the creature Perucetus colossus existed about 39 million years ago, and is estimated to have a length of 56 to 66 feet, according to the BBC.
That makes it far heftier than the blue whale, the largest animal alive right now, which can weigh in between 200,000 to 300,000 pounds.
To put this in better perspective: "Perucetus could have weighed almost two blue whales, three Argentinosaurs (a giant sauropod dinosaur), over 30 African bush elephants and as many as 5,000 people," said Giovanni Bianucci, study co-author and associate professor of paleontology at the University of Pisa in Italy, to CNN. In other words: A whole lot of blubber.
Researchers found a partial fossil of the beast actually 13 years ago in a desert in southern Peru and have been studying it closely ever since, according to the BBC.
What's especially interesting about the mammal — a type of ancient whale called a basilosaurid — is its dense, extremely heavy bones.
"Each vertebra weighs over 100kg (220 pounds), which is just completely mind-blowing," said co-author Rebecca Bennion, a researcher from the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences in Brussels, to the BBC.
The researchers surmise that the dense bones are an adaptation to give this massive whale extra bounce while it swam off the coast in relatively shallow waters. Think of it as an extremely oversized manatee.
Another interesting finding is that this ancient whale was THIS LARGE (mimes stretched out hands) at this particular time period — a far earlier sign of gigantism in whales than what scientists have traditionally thought, according to the BBC. Researchers thought gigantism in whales first emerged 4.5 million years ago.
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