Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Fossil Whale Constrains Uplift in East Africa

A 17-My-old whale constrains onset of uplift and climate change in east Africa. 2015. Jacobs, L. et al. PNAS.

Not a Beaked Whale. Kamandi © DC Comics

Uplift associated with the Great Rift Valley of East Africa and the environmental changes it produced have puzzled scientists for decades because the timing and starting elevation have been poorly constrained.

Now paleontologists have tapped a fossil from the most precisely dated beaked whale in the world -- and the only stranded whale ever found so far inland on the African continent -- to pinpoint for the first time a date when East Africa's mysterious elevation began.

The 17 million-year-old fossil is from the beaked Ziphiidae whale family. It was discovered 740 kilometers inland at an elevation of 620 meters in modern Kenya's harsh desert region, said vertebrate paleontologist Louis L. Jacobs, Southern Methodist University, Dallas. PR