Prehistoric beaked whale found with last meal

A beaked whale, Messapicetus gregarius that lived round 9 million years ago, has been discovered with remnants of what researchers believe may have been its last meal. The fossil of the whale was found in rocks in southwestern Peru last year.

Writing in the the scientific journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B., their findings reveal that a large number of sardine-like fish were found around its head and in its chest. It is the discovery of these fish that is most significant as they are thought to have lived near the surface of the ocean, much like their descendants do. This provides new information of the evolution of beaked whales as their modern-day relatives generally live and feed in deep water. Indeed, the Cuvier's beaked whale holds the record for the deepest dive of a whale ever recorded.

The researchers think that the evolution of dolphins soon after and their success in the shallow coastal waters forced the beaked whales to head for deeper depths where they flourished.

The full scientific report can be read at: http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/282/1815/20151530

Cuvier's beaked whale © Tim Stenton

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