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Third orca death in 18 months at theme park

Loro Parque tourist attraction in Tenerife, Spain has announced the death of Kohana, a 20-year-old...

WDC’s Shorewatch work shortlisted for nature award

We are thrilled that our Shorewatch programme has been shortlisted in the Citizen Science category...
Image from one of the WDC Risso's dolphin research catalogues

Local community helps piece together Risso’s dolphin puzzle

Thousands of photographs from members of the public have been published today in two WDC...

Tesco joins new initiative to help protect whales and dolphins

Tesco, the UK's largest retailer has joined WDC, Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP), and the Royal Society...

Early whales hearing similar to land animals

Whales and dolphins are renowned for their sensitive hearing but new research published in Current Biology suggests this was not always the case.

Using a CT scanner, scientists examined the fossils of two whales discovered during the last century in Togo, Africa. The whales were around 43-46 million years old, and while they lived in the sea, they still had legs which allowed them access to the land. Even though they would have been feeding on fish, they had not yet developed the ability to echolocate, used by modern-day toothed whales and dolphins.

Examination of their inner ears indicates these early whales could not yet pick up the extremes of high or low frequency sounds their descendants can. The separation into toothed and baleen whales occured around 35 million years ago and while it seems likely their specialised hearing evolved after this, the scientists have not ruled the possibility of discovering a common ancestor with highly developed hearing.

M. Mourlam and M. Orliac. Infrasonic and Ultrasonic Hearing Evolved after the Emergence of Modern Whales. Current Biology. Published online June 8, 2017. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.04.061.

About George Berry

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