The paleontologist Giovanni Capellini had the task of studying an important finding and illustrating the discovery of the scientific community; that meticulous study led him to conclude that it was a bone of the skull of a large cetacean dated back to Pliocene and belonging to the kind “Balaena” and because it had some peculiar features not found in other Tuscan fossils, he proposed to distinguish it as “Balaena Montalionis”.
Today it is part of the fossil collection of the Museum of Natural History and the Territory set up by the University of Pisa at Certosa of Calci, home of the most important caves of Europe.
The finding of Balaena Montalionis followed other minor discoveries of whale fossils, including a significant one in Castelfalfi today exhibited at the Civic Museum of Montaione. However, recent findings which have been recovered at Poggio Tagliato are not exhibited at the Department of Earth Sciences in Florence.
The reason why there is a large amount of fossils in the Montaione territory is to be found in the Pliocene period: at that time (3/5 million years ago) the reopening of the Mediterranean, with the formation, for tectonic causes, of the current Strait of Gibraltar, reestablished the connection with the Atlantic Ocean, forming large basins with warm water, populated by the ancestors of the great Cetacean microplanctophanes of the genus “Balaena”, which now live in the cold waters of the Arctic and Antarctic regions.
The whales began their extraordinary biological history from a terrestrial carnivorous mammal, the family of “mesonichids”, and they adapted to the aquatic environment at the beginning of the Eocene, no less than fifty million years ago.