Giant monk seal discovered


Giant monk seal discovered
Monk seal. image: Wikipedia.

Remains of a giant monk seal weighing 250 pounds have been discovered in New Zealand.

Scientists have discovered that the previously unknown species lived three million years ago in the Southern Hemisphere, thanks to fossils found in the Tasman Sea around New Zealand. Fossils show it was around 2.5 meters long and are the oldest of their kind in the world. Scientists describe this as the biggest breakthrough in seal evolution in 70 years.

The seal was named Eomonachus belegaerensis (Dawn Monk Seal of Belegaer) in reference to the Belegaer Sea, which lies west of Middle-earth in The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien, the study’s lead author, James Rule, of the Monash University, explained. The discovery, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, fundamentally changes scientists’ understanding of how seal species have evolved around the world.

Meanwhile, Dr. Felix Marx, curator of marine mammals and a study collaborator at New Zealand’s Te Papa Museum, said the discovery was a triumph for city science. “This new species was discovered thanks to several exceptionally well-preserved fossils, all found by members of the public.”

The researchers examined seven preserved fossil specimens, including a complete skull, found by local fossil hunters on the beaches of South Taranaki in New Zealand between 2009 and 2016. Previously, it was thought that all true seals were from the North Atlantic. with some who subsequently crossed the equator to live as far south as Antarctica.

Eomonaco now shows that many ancient seals, including the ancestors of today’s Antarctic monks, elephants, and seals, actually evolved in the Southern Hemisphere.

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