The Guardian has reported that a whale skeleton, thought to be up to 5,000 years old, may hold vital information about rising sea levels.
Discovered 12 kilometres inland in Samut Sakhon, west of Bangkok, the almost perfectly preserved remains are thought to be that of a Bryde’s whale. With around 80% of the 12-metre skeleton excavated, researchers have already identified 19 vertebrae, five ribs, a shoulder blade, and fins. While the bones are yet to be carbon dated, it is thought that they are between 3,000 and 5,000 years old.
Bryde’s whales face threats from fishing equipment and tourism, and are considered a protected species in Thailand’s waters. Scientists hope the remains will not only shed light onto the evolution of the species, but also provide insight into how sea levels have changed over thousands of years.
As the skeleton was found so far inland, Marcus Chua, of the National University of Singapore, said the discovery is evidence of “relatively large sea level changes around 6,000 years to 3,000 years ago in the Gulf of Thailand, where the shoreline was up to tens of kilometres inland of the present coast”.
Until now, the only inland marine deposit discoveries consisted of small fossilised shells or crabs, sparking debate as to how they got there. Chua continued, “a large subfossil whale dated thousands of years ago near Bangkok would provide strong evidence of where the sea was during that time.”
He also suggested that “scientists could also study the deposits found at the same level as the whale to reconstruct the biological communities present during that time, and compare them to present day systems.”