SAMUT SAKHON, Thailand (Reuters) – Thai researchers have unearthed a rare partially fossilised skeleton belonging to a Bryde’s whale believed to be around 5,000 years old at an inland site west of Bangkok.
The 12.5-metre (41 ft) long skeleton was found by a cyclist, who spotted part of a vertebrae coming out of the ground, in early November. Excavation has been going on since then.
“This whale skeleton is thought to be the only one in Asia,” said Pannipa Saetian, a geologist in the Fossil Protection division of the Department of Mineral Resources.
“It’s very rare to find such a discovery in near-perfect condition,” said Pannipa, estimating that about 90% of the whale’s skeleton had been recovered.
“Yesterday we found the right shoulder and fin,” she said, noting that about 36 backbone pieces had been unearthed.
The bones needed to be carbon-dated in order to determine the exact age of the skeleton, she said.
Once the painstaking process of cleaning and preserving the fragile skeleton is complete it will be exhibited.
Scientists hope the skeleton will provide more information to aid research into Bryde’s whale populations existing today as well as the geological conditions at the time.
Bryde’s whales, sometimes known as tropical whales for their preference for warmer waters, are found in coastal waters in parts of the Indian, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, including in the Gulf of Thailand.
(Writing by Ed Davies; Editing by Janet Lawrence)