x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

A whale of a find

The discovery of fossilised remains of a whale in Musaffah could have a major impact on the future of the capital's environment.

Things Musaffah is renowned for: steel factories, labour camps and lots and lots of trucks. But marine fossils? Not so much.

The fossil of an ancient whale, reported today in The National, gives insights into Abu Dhabi's marine environment seven millenia ago, not to mention that most of Abu Dhabi island may have been underwater.

The findings indicate that the Gulf waters were warmer, more saline and up to two metres higher 5,000 to 7,000 years ago. In geological terms, that is almost the blink of an eye. The revelation also indicates that fluctuating sea levels are nothing new, whether from natural climate change or as a human-induced phenomenon.

Perhaps of greater importance is how these discoveries will help to shape preservation efforts. Scientists involved in the discovery have used it to promote environmental stewardship of the low-lying coastal salt flats, called sabkhas, that are facing threats because of rapid development in the capital. The discovery of a fossilised whale could be just the beginning.

Of course, we are intrigued by a whale with a jawbone that is four metres in length. Scientists, however, are just as interested in evidence of microscopic life found in the same area. Large or small, there are many more discoveries lurking just beneath our feet.