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Whale Fossils Unearthed on a Mountain in Akita Prefecture

Fossils discovered in a 2.7 million-year-old stratum may offer insights into the evolutionary process behind the whale's remarkable growth in size.



Graduate students from Shinshu University excavate what is believed to be a fossil of a baleen whale in Akita Prefecture's Noshiro City on November 1. (©Kyodo)

On November 1, Noshiro City in Akita Prefecture announced the discovery of multiple fossils on a local mountain. These fossils, including a mandible, are believed to be from a baleen whale. The fossils were found in a stratum approximately 2.7 million years old. According to Hiroto Ichishima, the Director of the Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum, this marks the second unearthing of fossils of a large whale from this era in Japan. The first such excavation occurred in Hokkaido. However, this is the first time a whale's mandible from this era has been unearthed.

On the same day, Noshiro City collaborated with the Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum and Shinshu University to showcase the excavation process to the press. The estimated length of the discovered whale is approximately 18 meters (59 ft). Furthermore, the excavation has revealed fossils from at least 7 different body parts, including a mandible measuring over 3 meters (10 ft) in length and ribs.

The fossils were found in a 2.7 million-year-old stratum. (©Kyodo)

Clues to Why the Whale Became So Big

Ichishima explained, "Before this era, most whales measured around 10 meters (33 ft) in length. However, modern-day whales have undergone a substantial increase in size. These fossils offer invaluable insights into the enlargement process."

The whale fossils were found in 2020 by Professor Katsura Yamada, specializing in stratigraphy and paleobiology at Shinshu University, and his team. They discovered the fossils while conducting geological surveys in the area. Since then, the team has been diligently advancing with the excavation process. The next steps involve further cleaning and in-depth analyses of the fossils.


(Read the article in Japanese.)

Author: The Sankei Shimbun

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