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Orca Keet Faces Stressful Relocation

Orca Keet Faces Stressful Relocation

WDCS has recently become aware of the impending transfer of the orca Keet from Sea...
Belugas Of Cook Inlet Continue To Decline

Belugas Of Cook Inlet Continue To Decline

The beluga population of Cook Inlet, Alaska - recently re-listed as endangered - has fallen...
Whale-friendly Lunches: Good For Kids, Great For Whales

Whale-friendly Lunches: Good For Kids, Great For Whales

Does your school serve 'whale-friendly'* lunches? We know that you care about conservation and wouldn't...
New Year Dolphin Slaughter Begins In Taiji

New Year Dolphin Slaughter Begins In Taiji

Although the fishermen in Taiji took a two week break from hunting and killing dolphins...

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.