Info: Discovery of fossil Whale Skulls

Michael Williamson (whe_william@flo.org)
Mon, 28 Feb 1995 13:23:56

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From: Michael Williamson <WHE_WILLIAM@FLO.ORG>
Subject: Info: Discovery of fossil Whale Skulls
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Subj:	WHALE SKULLS 'SIGNIFICANT' FIN
 
Date:         Tue, 28 Feb 1995 11:40:00 UTC
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Subject:      WHALE SKULLS 'SIGNIFICANT' FIN
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WHALE SKULLS 'SIGNIFICANT' FIND
 
   By Trevor Marshallsea of AAP
   HOBART, Feb 28 AAP - The discovery of the fossilised skulls of
four possibly extinct species of toothed whales off southeast
Tasmania has been hailed as a significant find for researching the
animal's evolutionary picture.
   University of Tasmania PhD student Cath Samson happened upon the
skulls when they were dredged from between two and four kilometres
beneath the surface during a geological survey over the past four
weeks.
   The skulls, which could be up to 15 million years old, were well
preserved as the bone in all four had been replaced by silica,
abundant in such depths.
   Ms Samson said the skulls appeared to be from four different
species of beaked whales, which belong in the suborder of toothed
whales, and possibly represented four different genera.
   She said if they were found not to be from one of the 12 species
of beaked whales still surviving in Australian waters, there was a
strong chance they had never been described before.
   "It's a very important find - especially if they turn out to be
extinct," said Ms Samson, a New Zealander who studied whale fossils
at the University of Otago.
   "The fossil record for whales in Australia is pretty limited, so
this should help fill a few holes in the evolutionary picture of
beaked whales.
   "It was a complete fluke to pull them up, but they were well
preserved and easily recognisable."
   Ms Samson said it was not immediately possible to date the
skulls as they were not embedded in datable rock, but said beaked
whales had been recognised in the fossil record since 15 million
years ago.
   The four skulls were thought to have been from whales of about
six to eight metres in length.
   Ms Samson will study the skulls at the University of Tasmania's
Antarctic Cooperative Research Centre, where she is based.