In terms of its taxonomic description, the researchers say this is "difficult", although the morphology of the scapula (shoulder blade) suggests it is "from the Balaenopteridae (rorqual) family, belonging to the group of baleen whales from the Mysticeti sub-order", says the paleontologist.
Dead bodies as a source of nutrients
The occasional presence of a cetacean corpse on the sea floor represents an exceptional provision of nutrients for various ecological communities. According to recent studies of current-day phenomena, four ecological phases associated with whales have been recognised "that can be partially recognised in the fossil record" the presence of mobile scavengers (sharks and bony fish), opportunists (especially polychaetes and crustaceans), sulphophilic extremophiles (micro organisms) and hard coral.
Once the bones deposited on the sea floor, free of organic material, were exposed, bivalve molluscs of the species Neopycnodonte cochlear colonised them. The presence of these bivalves suggests that the process to transform the biological remains after death was "relatively lengthy before it was definitively buried", explains the researcher.
"The fat and other elements resulting from the decomposition of the organic material would have enriched the sediment around and above the body, and this can be seen in the numerous burrowing structures in this sediment, created by endobiotic organisms, such as crustaceans and polychaete annelids", adds Muz. The bones were also "used", not only as a base to which these could attach themselves, but also as food.
FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology