updated 6/14/2004 6:31:08 PM ET 2004-06-14T22:31:08

Scientists say they have discovered a species of whale that lived 14 million years ago in a sea that covered what is now eastern Virginia. Paleontologists at the Virginia Museum of Natural History found bones from the 35-foot whale in 1990, but the skeleton took several years to prepare and identify as a new species.

The whale is the oldest known member, by at least 3 million years, of a group that today includes the giant blue and fin whales, scientists said. It was several feet longer than any other whale in its time, said Alton Dooley, a museum paleontologist.

The discovery suggests that almost-modern-looking whales lived considerably further back in time than scientists realized, said Larry Barnes, an expert in fossilized marine mammals at the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History.

The whale is one of the numerous marine and land fossils found at a quarry in eastern Virginia.

The Virginia Museum of Natural History named the new species Eobalaenoptera harrisoni, after Carter Harrison, a museum volunteer.

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