Prehistoric whale skeleton found in Tuscany


Apr 4, 2007

ROME, Italy (AP) -- Italian researchers have found the skeleton of a 33-foot prehistoric whale in the Tuscan countryside, a discovery that could shed light on the ancient environment of the sea, officials said.

The skeleton dates to 4 million years ago, to the Pliocene epoch, said paleontologists with the Museum of Natural History in Florence who are studying the fossil.

"The finding is spectacular," said Elisabetta Cioppi, an official in the museum's paleontology department and the coordinator of the excavations. Cioppi pointed to the fact that the skeleton is complete and a variety of organisms were found around the fossil as well.

"This will enable us to conduct an in-depth analysis on the paleo environment," she said in a statement.

The skeleton was found a few weeks ago in Orciano Pisano, in the countryside about 50 miles east of Florence. It was found about 100 yards below ground in what used to be the sea occupying most of today's Tuscany, the statement said.

The fossil is expected to be taken to the Museum of Natural History in Florence and put on display once it is restored.