Thailand: discovery of a rare whale skeleton

Whale skeleton
The bones have not yet been carbon dated

An almost perfectly preserved whale skeleton, 3,000 to 5,000 years old, has been found in Thailand.

The bones were found in early November about 12 km (7.5 miles) from the coast just west of Bangkok.

The 12m (39ft) long skeleton is believed to be that of a Bryde’s whale.

Experts hope the find will provide “a window into the past”, especially for research on sea level and biodiversity.

The partially fossilized bones are “a rare find,” mammal researcher Marcus Chua of the National University of Singapore told the BBC.

“There are few whale sub-fossils in Asia,” he said, and even fewer of them are “in such good condition”.

Photos shared by Thailand’s Environment Minister Varawut Silpa-archa show the bones apparently almost entirely intact.

According to the politician, more than 80% of the skeleton has so far been recovered, including vertebrae, ribs, fins and a scapula.

The head of the skeleton alone is estimated to be around 3m long.

Mr Chua says the discovery will allow researchers to learn more about the particular species in the past, if there were any differences from today’s Bryde’s whales.

The skeleton will also provide information on “the paleobiological and geological conditions at this time, including the estimation of sea level, types of sediment and contemporary biological communities at this time”.

“This discovery therefore opens a window to the past once the skeleton has been dated,” says Chua.

The bones have not yet been carbon dated to determine their exact age, with results due in December.

Whale skeleton
Bryde’s whales still exist around Thailand today

The Gulf of Thailand has an interesting history over the past 10,000 years, the biologist points out, with sea level perhaps up to 4 m higher than today and active tectonic activity.

The skeleton was found off the current coast at Samut Sakhon.

Bryde’s whales, which live in warm temperate and tropical waters around the world, are still found in the waters around Thailand today.

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