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Rugby World Cup fans warned of whale meat risk

Rugby World Cup fans warned of whale meat risk

WDC has launched an awareness campaign today calling on people visiting Japan for the Rugby...
SeaWorld parts company with another CEO

SeaWorld parts company with another CEO

Troubled marine park operator, SeaWorld has parted company with yet another CEO. Gus Antorcha, who...
Antibiotic resistance in dolphins mirrors trend seen in humans

Antibiotic resistance in dolphins mirrors trend seen in humans

Samples collected from dolphins by scientists over a 12 year period indicate that dolphins may...
Canada to move two captive belugas to theme park in Spain

Canada to move two captive belugas to theme park in Spain

Two captive beluga whales are to be moved from the Marineland theme park in Canada...

Pygmy sperm whale fossils shed light on whale evolution

Fossils found in Panama from a newly-discovered extinct species of pygmy sperm whale have cast new light on how modern day whales evolved.

Scientists from the National History Museum in Los Angeles, writing in the scientific journal PLOS ONE, analysed the skulls of two whales found in rocks in a sea cliff. The rock layer is thought to be about 7 million years old. They discovered that the skulls of these whales had larger a spermaceti organ than their modern day relatives, though it is not yet known why it shrunk over time. The organ is found in the head and plays a key role in the generation of sound and in the whale’s use of echolocation.

“The new discovery gives us a better understanding of the ancient distribution of these poorly known relatives of the sperm whale,” said lead scientist, Dr. Jorge Velez-Juarbe. The new whale species has been named Nanokogia isthmia after the Isthmus of Panama.

The spermaceti organ contains a waxy liquid that was highly sought after by whalers and led to the death of hundreds of thousands of sperm whales (a distant relative of pygmy sperm whales) during the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. The oil was used in everything from candles and cosmetics to engines in luxury cars.