Four ribs sticking out of the forest floor lead students to Taiwan breakthrough


Archaeologists and local collectors set out on a treasure hunt while walking through the rainforests of southern Taiwan. Among the mossy rocks and lush greenery, something caught the pair’s attention.

Geologist Yang Zirui, a professor at National Cheng Kung University, was called to explore the forest Hengchun The university said in a news release on Monday, Dec. 5, that it, along with a team of students, had found four ribs sticking out of the ground deep in the woods.

The protruding ribs were just the beginning. Zirui led a team of students to fully excavate the area. This was his 90-day intensive project that began in the heat of the summer and ended in October.

Experts say excavations have uncovered fossils of giant whales that are 85,000 years old. The fossilized whale was about 50 feet long and about 70% complete.

Excavations have revealed fossilized whale vertebrae.

Excavations have revealed fossilized whale vertebrae.

The team unearthed the whale’s vertebrae, shoulder blade, back of the skull and jawbone, Zirui said in a release. The stacked caudal vertebrae were particularly well preserved as the photo shows.

A team that excavates part of a fossil.

A team that excavates part of a fossil.

The whale’s jawbone is the largest and heaviest fossil ever found, according to the university. Its jawbone was over 7 feet long and weighed over 730 pounds.

Left: A team excavating a whale jawbone. Right: A student lies next to the jawbone, demonstrating its large size.

Left: A team excavating a whale jawbone. Right: A student lies next to the jawbone, demonstrating its large size.

After excavating each part of the skeleton, the team used stretchers to transport the fossils out of the forest. The photo shows. The jawbone took about seven hours for 12 people to lift it out of the rough terrain, the university said.

A team uses stretchers to carry some of the whale fossils out of the forest.

A team uses stretchers to carry some of the whale fossils out of the forest.

The fossils could belong to blue or fin whales, two species of whales that lived off the coast of Taiwan thousands of years ago, Zirui said. The whale fossil, which was discovered for the first time in Taiwan, was taken to the National Museum of Natural Science for further cleaning and research, the university said.

Hengchun is located at the southernmost tip of Taiwan, approximately 275 miles south of Taipei.

Google Translate and Baidu Translate were used to translate news releases from National Cheng Kung University.

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