Skip to content
All news
  • All news
  • About whales & dolphins
  • Corporates
  • Create healthy seas
  • End captivity
  • Green Whale
  • Prevent deaths in nets
  • Scottish Dolphin Centre
  • Stop whaling
  • Stranding
  • Whale watching
dolphin_interaction4_seaworld

Large number of dolphins moved to Abu Dhabi marine park

Up to 24 captive bottlenose dolphins have reportedly been sent to a new SeaWorld theme...
Southern resident orca_CWR_Rob Lott

Success! Removal of last river dams to help threatened orcas in the US

Great news has emerged from the US concerning our work to protect the endangered orca...

More important ocean areas for whales and dolphin protection identified

Scientists and observers from many different countries have identified and mapped 36 new Important Marine...
captive dolphin

Las Vegas dolphin facility to close

Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat in Las Vegas is to permanently close....

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.

About George Berry

George is a member of WDC's Communications team and website coordinator.