The First Monster

One of the weirdest animals ever to live on the earth has just been discovered…and it’s also the heaviest creature the planet has supported, beating out the blue whale which we always presumed was the heaviest thing that existed.

It’s also a mystery.

Perucetus Colossus swam in the shallow coastal waters of Peru 39 million years ago…and perhaps elsewhere, who knows? This is the first sign we’ve found of a monster that was the length of an articulated bus, just a few bones. Bizarre bones.

Though this monster was shorter than the blue whale, its bones were extremely dense, contributing to its great weight. There are some suggestions why the bones were so dense, but no one is wholly sure.

“The estimated skeletal mass of P. colossus exceeds that of any known mammal or aquatic vertebrate,” says a new study by an international team of scientists, led by Giovanni Bianucci of the University of Pisa. That’s a surprise. Whales were supposed to have evolved to their current size and no modern whales show any of the strange adaptations that this prehistoric one did.

A recreation from those bones shows the beast was huge, round, with tiny hind limbs, short webbed paws, a tiny, flat, pointed snout, and a round tail.

Eli Amson, curator of fossil mammals at the State Museum of Natural History in Stuttgart, Germany, and co-author of the paper, says, “Actually the drawing is quite conservative in its depiction of the animal. The truth is, it probably was something even weirder, but difficult for us to picture.”

That we are only now stumbling across a creature so vast tells us all we need to know about the deep past. We’ve barely scratched the surface of what existed and the picture we do have is made up of fragments. There are mysteries still to be uncovered.

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