The Museum Displays Old Whale Fossil

Friday, October 21, 2011

Fossil whale, estimated at two to five million years, will part of a dinosaur exhibition at Te Manawa.

The vertebrae and ribs were discovered in February during the construction of a new road in the near Taihape Ohingaiti.

Te Manawa has been in storage about six months, but now the staff preparing for the display.

Te Manawa science curator Miriam Sharland has a date for the new exhibit to open has not been confirmed. Te Manawa staff worked with experts at the University of Otago and GEOnet preserve fossils.

The dinosaurs fossils are embedded in a block of two tonnes of mudstone. The size of the bone indicates that the whale was over 12 m long.

They were exhumed from 24 meters below the ground staff of contractors Palmerston North company building Stringfellows.

Mrs Sharland said the fossils were the first to Te Manawa and would be a great educational tool. The fossils showed how some parts of New Zealand was lifted by geological processes hundreds of thousands of years, she said. The whale fossils were found 245m above sea level and 80 kilometers from the nearest coast.

"In the past, New Zealand did not have the mountains and the sea covered much more ground. As the mountains were pushed over the last million years, the ancient stones of the sea were brought to the surface," said MS Sharland.

Further investigation can confirm the exact species of whale, but Mrs. Sharland said that the bones were almost certainly of a baleen whale. "Baleen whales gather huge amounts of water in the mouth and filtering plankton and small fish," she said. "Blue whales, the largest animal that ever existed, are baleen whales. The first baleen whale known dates to about 35 million years."

Fragments of fossils of large baleen whales had been found elsewhere in New Zealand from geologically young rocks from the last 10 million years. Ancient marine sediments were common in parts of New Zealand, who was now far from the sea

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