Formerly unknown animal, named after a sea from Lord of the Rings drastically modifiers scientists’ understanding of the evolutionary process of seals.
Fossils discovered in New Zealand helped archaeologist find a formerly unknown type of extinct monk seal, which, according to biologists, is the most significant breakthrough in seal evolution in the last seventy years.
The animal is called Eomonachus belegaerensis, and it got its name from a sea in JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. It significantly altered scientists’ perception of the evolution of seal species across the globe.
Eomonachus belegaerensis roamed the waters around current-day New Zealand approximately three million years ago, and it was about two and a half metres in length and weighed approximately 200-250 kg.
James Rule, a PhD candidate from the Monash University palaeontology department, teamed up with a few Trans Tasman scientists to conduct the study.
“This new species of extinct monk seal is the first of its kind from the Southern Hemisphere. Its discovery turns seal evolution on its head.”
“Until now, we thought that all true seals originated in the northern hemisphere, and then crossed the equator just once or twice during their entire evolutionary history. Instead, many of them appear to have evolved in the southern Pacific, and then crisscrossed the equator up to eight times,” he added.
The equator typically works as a barrier for marine animals passing, Rule highlighted, mainly because the waters are considerably warm, so the discovery that seals navigated plenty of times over their evolutionary path is considerable.
It was formerly believed that all authentic seals originate from the north Atlantic with some crossing the equator ulteriorly to live as far south as Antarctica.