The remains of a sea cow species that lived 20 million years ago have been found in the Philippines by a team of Italian scientists. The discovery of the fossils in limestone rock above the waters of the Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR) is of major scientific significance and raises the international profile of the river, which is a Finalist in the New7Wonders of Nature.
Initial comparisons with fossil specimens suggest the PPUR sea cow belongs to an extinct species of plant-eating Sirenia. Two types of sea cow are still alive, the dugong of the Indo-Pacific region and manatees of the Atlantic basin.
“Since the beginning we have considered the Puerto Princesa Underground River a true world wonder, and now this historical discovery shows us that even before humans arrived, an extraordinary creature from the depths of this planet’s history, the 20-million-year-old Sirenia, was the first ever fan of PPUR — and the ultimate reason to vote for PPUR!” Puerto Princesa City Mayor Edward Hagedorn said.
Speaking during a symposium at the Philippine presidential palace where the find was announced, University of Florence geologist Leonardo Piccini, the leader of the La Venta expedition, said it was a rare discovery in the region from the Miocene era — 20 million years ago. “It’s the first remains of this kind of animal in the area, so it is important in reconstructing the habitat of this animal in the Miocene period,” he added.
“This remarkable fossil is like a time machine,” says Eamonn Fitzgerald, Head of Communication at New7Wonders. “It opens a window on the past and shows us what was happening in the evolutionary process millions of years ago.”
Puerto Princesa Underground River and the Sirenia Fossil