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Russian citizens call for action to prevent another whale jail

Russian citizens call for action to prevent another whale jail

Reports from inside Russia have revealed more than 100,000 petition signers have raised their objections...
WDC’s whale and dolphin sightings programme receives financial boost

WDC’s whale and dolphin sightings programme receives financial boost

WDC’s work to help whale and dolphin populations in Scotland has been given a boost...
One year on – Japan’s return to whaling hurts us all

One year on – Japan’s return to whaling hurts us all

Japanese whalers have slaughtered 223 whales in the 12 months since the Japanese government announced...
Photo exhibition gives stunning insight into beluga move

Photo exhibition gives stunning insight into beluga move

A photographic exhibition at London’s After Nyne Gallery has opened this week giving visitors the...

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.

George Berry

About George Berry

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