A 5,000-year-old whale skeleton has been discovered, almost perfectly preserved, by Thai researchers.
The skeleton, believed to be a Bryde’s whale, was found in Samut Sakhon, west of Bangkok. Researchers have searched 80 percent of the remains and have so far identified 19 complete vertebrae, five ribs, a scapula and fins. The skeleton is 12 meters (39 feet), with a skull three meters long.
The bones will be carbon dated to verify their age, but are believed to be between 3,000 and 5,000 years old.
Bryde’s whales are still found in Thai waters, including the Gulf of Thailand, where they are considered a protected species. Whales – who prefer waters above 16 ° C (61 ° F) and prey on schooling fish such as anchovies – are threatened by fishing gear as well as tourism.
The discovery will help deepen researchers’ understanding of the evolution of the species, as well as other marine species. Next to the skeleton, researchers found preserved objects, including shark teeth and shells.
The remains, which were found about 12 km inland, will also provide important evidence to help scientists track sea level changes over thousands of years, said Varawut Silpa- archa, the Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment.
Marcus Chua, of the National University of Singapore, told the BBC that the partially fossilized bones were “a rare find” and that the find “opens a window to the past”. The skeleton was to provide information on “the paleobiological and geological conditions of the time, including estimation of sea level, types of sediment and contemporary biological communities.”
There were few whale sub-fossils in Asia, Chua said, and finding one in such good condition was particularly unusual.
The exact age of the skeleton is expected to be confirmed in December.