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Colossal fossil: Museum's new whale skeleton represents decades of research
Date:12/16/2010

ANN ARBOR, Mich.---There's a whale of a new display at the University of Michigan Exhibit Museum of Natural History, a leviathan that represents a scientific saga of equally grand proportions.

A complete, 50-foot-long skeleton of the extinct whale Basilosaurus isis, which lived 37 million years ago, now is suspended from the ceiling of the museum's second floor gallery and will reign over an updated whale evolution exhibit scheduled to open in April 2011.

"It's a spectacular fossil," said Exhibit Museum director Amy Harris. "Basilosaurus looks ferocious with its big teeth, and we hope people will spend a lot of time looking at it, studying it and reading about it. The Exhibit Museum tells the story of life on Earth, and when museum visitors see Basilosaurus, they'll be able to see evidence for whale evolution, which is one of the more interesting stories in evolution."

Basilosaurus and its companions also represent decades of paleontological detective work by a team led by Philip Gingerich, director of the U-M Museum of Paleontology and the Ermine Cowles Case Collegiate Professor of Paleontology. Since the 1980s, Gingerich and colleagues have located and mapped the remains of more than a thousand whales in an area of the Egyptian desert known as Wadi Hitan ("valley of the whales"), a UNESCO World Heritage site. Their work there was the subject of an article in the August 2010 issue of National Geographic. In addition, Gingerich and colleagues have made significant fossil whale discoveries in Pakistan.

The finds have helped piece together the story of how whales evolved from typical land-dwelling mammals to creatures that spend their whole lives in the sea---a story that will be showcased in the new exhibit, "Back to the Sea: The Evolution of Whales."

"We created an exhibit on this topic in 1997 with Professor Gingerich, and since then he's made new discoveries that we're excited to be able to include in the new exhib
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Contact: Nancy Ross-Flanigan
rossflan@umich.edu
734-647-1853
University of Michigan
Source:Eurekalert  

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Colossal fossil: Museum's new whale skeleton represents decades of research
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