A fossil found on a beach in Melbourne, Australia more than 60 years ago has been identified to be the oldest known evidence of the rare pygmy right whale, according to latest paleontological study.
The fossil is a 6-million-year-old ear bone from the whale, a species still found in the Southern Ocean, local media cited research by paleontologist Erich Fitzgerald as showing on Wednesday.
The apricot-sized bone was first found in the city's Beaumaris beachside suburb in the first half of last century, and kept in the Museums Victoria collection before Fitzgerald recently analyzed it, the ABC News channel reported.
"It's a startling thing about museums that we can make big discoveries without having to take one step outside of the museum building," he said.
The pygmy right whale grows to about six meters long and it is the smallest in the cetacean baleen family, which includes the blue whale, the world's largest creature.
The latest discovery was also significant because there are only six existing fossils from the small and little-known species, said Fitzgerald.