A Swedish subfossil find of a bowhead whale from the late Pleistocene: shore displacement, paleoecology in south-west Sweden and the identity of the Swedenborg whale (Balaena swedenborgii Liljeborg, 1867)
The Swedenborg whale Balaena swedenborgii Liljeborg, 1867, is a baleen whale species believed to have existed in the North Sea from the period when the inland ice melted around 13,000 before present (BP) until about 8000 years ago. The first bones attributed to this species were found in Sweden in 1705. When whale remains were discovered on the Swedish west coast during the extension work of a motorway extension, it was speculated that this could be a specimen of the extinct Swedenborg whale. The bones were found 72m above the present-day sea level embedded in glacial mud. Shelly remains of marine organisms were present in the deposit surrounding the whale-fall, and sediments with the associated specimens were therefore collected for further analyses. We applied radiocarbon dating, thin sectioning, morphological analyses, ancient DNA typing and analyses of the associated shelly assemblage in an interdisciplinary effort to understand the circumstances of this fossil whale-fall. Our results show that the whale is not the putative species B. swedenborgii, but a bowhead whale Balaena mysticetus. The results also indicate that the whale must have been rapidly covered by glacial sediments, highlighting the speed of the deglacial process in the area.