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How A Whale Skeleton Wound Up in the Middle of a Rainforest


Rainforests are sprawling hubs of biodiversity. Though they only span less than a tiny fraction of the Earth’s surface, they’re home to millions and millions of some of the rarest species on the planet. That didn't include whales — until now.

Like whales? That, unfortunately, is one species that rainforests had never been able to handle ... until now. Earlier this month, scientists in Far North Queensland — a northern part of Australia’s northeastern state — stumbled upon a peculiar and uniquely mystifying set of bones buried in the deep wilderness of a World Heritage rainforest, according to a special new report from Sarah Keartes of Earth Touch News.

 

Large whale vertebrae and rib. (Photo Credit: Peter Whitehead/James Cook University)

 

The bones were huge, leading the scientists to wonder if they belonged to some prehistoric ichthyosaurus or giant reptile. They were just too big to belong to any animal currently roaming the planet.

 

Non-mineralized internal bone structure. (Photo Credit: Peter Whitehead/James Cook University)

 

But as soon as researchers tried to collect the bones for further study, something seemed a little off. The bones weren’t fossilized, meaning they couldn’t be that old. The rocks surrounding the bones also didn’t look that old.

And picking up the bones revealed an even stranger “prehistoric” treasure lying in the ground below: burlap bags covered in a rotting white gel.

 

Whale bones and blubber. (Photo Credit: Peter Whitehead/James Cook University)

 

All of a sudden it became clear that the bones belong to a recently dead whale that appeared to have been transported deep inland into the rainforest. Digging around in local historical archives revealed the Bryde's whale had actually died 17 years ago, stranding in an inlet with its guts full of plastic bags.

And the real reason its final resting place had so many towering trees?

 

The classic case of any whale disposal gone wrong: It was just too big to go to the dump. And this never seems to work in real life.

 

So if you’re looking to dispose of a whale of your own, may we suggest your local rainforest?

Giphy

 

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Illustration by Fabio Manucci

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