A 17 million year- old whale fossil, found about 450 miles inland at a more than 2000 feet above sea level offers significant insight on the uplift of the Great Rift Valley of East Africa and perhaps the origins of mankind.
The rise of the area and the climate changes that accompanied it are believed to have provided the conditions that prompted the evolution of primates from tree occupants to standing walking creatures that lived on the fields.
For a considerable length of time the course of events and changes that happened amid the elevation have been highly debated. The finding of the fossil whale in, what is currently, a brutal desert area, offers vital pieces of information as indicated by vertebrate scientist Louis L. Jacobs, Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
No other whale remains have been discovered so far inland in Africa. At the time it inhabited the area, the whale would have been swimming upriver with an average speed of 78 to 120 feet for 370 to 550 miles, as per Jacobs. His statement read:
“The whale was stranded up river at a time when east Africa was at sea level and was covered with forest and jungle. As that part of the continent rose up, that caused the climate to become drier and drier. So over millions of years, forest gave way to grasslands. Primates evolved to adapt to grasslands and dry country. And that’s when — in human evolution — the primates started to walk upright.”
The study titled “A 17 million-year-old whale constrains onset of uplift and climate change in East Africa,” was distributed in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The fossil, a Turkana Ziphiid was not a river creature but had probably advanced upriver from the sea as whales will sporadically do today.
Ziphiids, the precursors of the fossilized creatures, are still a top predator and are viewed as one of the ocean’s top predators. The beaked whales jump deeper all known animals, diving to depths close 10,000 feet to hunt food.
Most whale fossils are discovered in marine rocks and it is uncommon to find such a remains in river sediments. The ancient river, the Anza, streamed southeastward to the Indian Ocean. The whale, as indicated by the analysts, swam into the waterway and was not able to change course, moving ahead inland for many miles.
It is generally a challenging task to establish to the old height of an area. However, the inland finding of marine species is a good starting point. The main other proof for the uplift in East Africa is the finding of a magma flow.
The whale fossil was initially discovered in the Turkana area of northwest Kenya in 1964. J.G. Mead, who made the discovery, recently retired from the Smithsonian Institution.
The whale the remains came from was evaluated to have been 23 feet long. The part discovered, nonetheless, was just the 2.6 foot long, 1.8 foot wide beak part of the skull.
The fossil had been lost for a long time. Jacobs, who was at one time leader of the Division of Paleontology for the National Museums of Kenya, put in 30 years searching for it before at long last detecting it at Harvard University and giving it back to Kenya’s National Museum.
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