Video | Business Headlines | Internet | Science | Scientific Ethics | Technology | Search

 


Research reveals dwarf whale survived well into Ice Age


Fossil ranges of Herpetocetus, marine mammals, and land mammals from the Pacific coast of the United States, and life restoration of Herpetocetus. X = extinction, O= first appearance. Illustration by R.W. Boessenecker.

Friday 5 April 2013


Otago research reveals dwarf whale survived well into Ice Age

University of Otago research detailing the fossil of a dwarf baleen whale from Northern California reveals that it avoided extinction far longer than previously thought.

Otago Department of Geology PhD student Robert Boessenecker has found that the fossil of the 4-5 metre long Herpetocetus, thought to be the last survivor of the primitive baleen whale family called cetotheres, may be as young as 700,000 years old.

Mr Boessenecker says the previously youngest-known fossils of this whale were from the pre-Ice Age Pliocene epoch; approximately 3 million years ago, a time before many modern marine mammals appeared. Baleen whales of this type were most common much earlier, about 10-15 million years ago.

“That this whale survived the great climatic and ecological upheavals of the Ice Age and almost into the modern era is very surprising as nearly all fossil marine mammals found after the end of the Pliocene appear identical to modern species.

“Other baleen whales underwent extreme body size increases in response to the new environment, but this dwarf whale must have still had a niche to inhabit which has only recently disappeared,” he says.

The find indicates that the emergence of the modern marine mammals during the Ice Age may have happened more gradually than currently thought, he says.

The discovery also lends indirect support to a hypothesis about the modern pygmy right whale (Caperea marginata) recently published by Mr Boessenecker’s colleagues Professor Ewan Fordyce and Dr Felix Marx. The pair posited that this enigmatic Southern Ocean whale is not a true right whale but actually a member of the cetothere family and one of the closest relatives of Herpetocetus.

“If their hypothesis is correct, this latest discovery indicates that other close relatives of the pygmy right whale nearly survived to modern times within the Northern Hemisphere.

“In this light, Herpetocetus can be viewed as a Northern Hemisphere equivalent of the pygmy right whale: both are small-bodied with peculiar anatomy, possibly closely related, with feeding habits that are seemingly divergent from other baleen whales.”

All baleen whales lack teeth and instead use baleen to strain small prey like krill and fish from seawater. Many whales, such as humpback and blue whales, gulp enormous amounts of water during lunges, while others such as gray whales filter prey from mud on the seafloor.

Owing to a strange jaw joint, Herpetocetus could not open its mouth more than 35 degrees, unlike any modern baleen whale.

The research appears in the international journal Naturwissenschaften.

ends

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines

 

Power Outages, Roads Close: Easter Storm Moving Down Country

The NZ Transport Agency says storm conditions at the start of the Easter break are making driving hazardous in Auckland and Northland and it advises people extreme care is needed on the regions’ state highways and roads... More>>

ALSO:

Houses (& Tobacco) Lead Inflation: CPI Up 0.3% In March Quarter

The consumers price index (CPI) rose 0.3 percent in the March 2014 quarter, Statistics New Zealand said today. Higher tobacco and housing prices were partly countered by seasonally cheaper international air fares, vegetables, and package holidays. More>>

ALSO:

Notoriously Reliable Predictions: Budget To Show Rise In Full-Time Income To 2018: English

This year’s Budget will forecast wage increases through to 2018 amounting to a $10,500 a year increase in average full time earnings over six years to $62,200 a year, says Finance Minister Bill English in a speech urging voters not to “put all of this at risk” by changing the government. More>>

ALSO:

Prices Up, Volume Down: March NZ House Sales Drop 10% As Loan Curbs Bite

New Zealand house sales dropped 10 percent in March from a year earlier as the Reserve Bank’s restrictions on low-equity mortgages continue to weigh on sales of cheaper property. More>>

ALSO:

Scoop Business: Chorus To Appeal Copper Pricing Judgment

Chorus will appeal a High Court ruling upholding the Commerce Commission’s determination setting the regulated prices on the telecommunications network operator’s copper lines. More>>

ALSO:

Earlier:

Cars: Precautionary Recalls Announced For Toyota Vehicles

Toyota advises that a number of its New Zealand vehicles are affected by a series of precautionary global recalls. Toyota New Zealand General Manager Customer Services Spencer Morris stressed that the recalls are precautionary. More>>

ALSO:

'Gardening Club': Air Freight Cartel Nets Almost $12 Million In Penalties

The High Court in Auckland has today ordered Swiss company Kuehne + Nagel International AG to pay a penalty of $3.1 million plus costs for breaches of the Commerce Act. Kuehne + Nagel’s penalty brings the total penalties ordered in this case to $11.95 million ... More>>

ALSO:

Crown Accounts: Revenue Below Projections

Core Crown tax revenue has increased by $1.9 billion (or 5.0%) compared to the same time last year. However this was $1.1 billion less than expected and is reflected across most tax types, continuing the pattern of recent months. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
Computer Power Plus
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sci-Tech
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news