A team of Belgian scientists excavated an important fossil off of Peru´s southern coast in the province of Ica. Specifically, the scientists uncovered a fossil bearing the skeleton of the Mystacodon selensis, an ancient whale.
This discovery is groundbreaking for paleontologists, because it the oldest known relative of the baleen whale ever found, at 36.4 million years old. Baleen whales are subset of the whale species that includes blue whales and humpback whales.
Futhermore, the whale fossil is the first relative to the baleen whale that belongs to a group of the whale ancestors, basilosaurids. Some of the characteristics that lead scientists to be believe that this ancient creature was a basilosaurid are the fossil size, skull shape, and pelvic bone.
All of these characteristics are more closely aligned with ancient whales, rather than modern whales.
The scope of this discovery is huge because it can allow scientists to better understand the evolutionary roots of the baleen whale.