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Hollywood Film About Whales Trapped In Ice Opens

Hollywood Film About Whales Trapped In Ice Opens

Based on a true story surrounding the real-life events that occurred in October 1988, Big...
Orca Rescue In New Zealand

Orca Rescue In New Zealand

A young female orca was rescued by a diver yesterday after she became caught up...
Help Scotland's Whales And Dolphins

Help Scotland's Whales And Dolphins

The Scottish Government is putting steps in place to protect the amazing marine life around...
More Dolphin Watching Operators In Hawaii Get SMART

More Dolphin Watching Operators In Hawaii Get SMART

The long running Dolphin SMART programme, of which WDCS is a partner, has continued its...

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.