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

 


Otago researchers reveal new NZ fossil dolphin

Otago researchers reveal new NZ fossil dolphin


A newly recognised fossil dolphin from New Zealand, dubbed Papahu taitapu, is the first of its kind ever found and may be a close relation to the ancestors of modern dolphins and toothed whales, according to University of Otago researchers.

Papahu lived 19–22 million years ago, and is one of the few dolphins to be reported globally dating to the start of the Miocene epoch. Judging from the size of its skull, Papahu was about two metres long, roughly the size of a common dolphin.

Dr Gabriel Aguirre and Professor Ewan Fordyce, from the University’s Department of Geology describe and interpret Papahu in the latest issue of Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. This work was part of Dr Aguirre’s PhD research.

Dr Aguirre says that like most living dolphins, Papahu had many simple conical teeth, but its head was probably a bit wider, and not as high-domed. It lived at a time of global warmth, in shallow seas around Zealandia – or proto-New Zealand – along with ancient penguins and baleen whales.

The skull, one jaw, and a few other parts of Papahu taitapu were found in marine sedimentary rocks in the Cape Farewell region of northern South Island. The researchers used the Māori name ‘taitapu’ to honour this region, and ‘Papahu’ is a Māori name for dolphin. Only a single specimen has been found so far and the fossil is housed in the University’s Geology Museum.

“Our study of structures of the skull and earbone suggest that Papahu could make and use high frequency sound to navigate and detect prey in murky water. They probably also used sound to communicate with each other,” says Dr Aguirre.

Features of the Papahu skull can be used to analyse relationships with other dolphins and toothed whales. That work shows that the skull is distinct from all previously-reported fossils, which is why the dolphin can be formally named as a new form, he says.

“When we compared Papahu with both modern and fossil dolphins we found that it belongs in a diverse and structurally variable group of ancient dolphins that evolved and spread world-wide 19–35 million years ago. All of those ancient dolphins including Papahu and others, such as shark-toothed dolphins, are now extinct,” says Professor Fordyce.

“They have been replaced by the ‘modern’ dolphins and toothed whales, which diversified within the last 19 million years,” he says.

It is not clear, however, exactly why Papahu and other ancient dolphins went extinct, he added.

ends

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines

 

What Winter? Temperature Records Set For June 20-22

The days around the winter soltice produced a number of notably warm tempertaures. More>>

Conservation Deal: New Kākāpō Recovery Partnership Welcomed

Conservation Minister Maggie Barry says the new kakapo recovery partnership between DOC and Meridian Energy is great news for efforts to save one of New Zealand’s most beloved birds. More>>

ALSO:

Tech Sector Report: Joyce Warns Asian Tech Investors View NZ As Hobbits And Food

Speaking in Wellington at the launch of a report showcasing the value of the technology sector to the New Zealand economy, Joyce said more had to be done to tell the country's technology stories overseas. More>>

ALSO:

Mediaglommeration: APN Gets OIO Approval For Demerger Plan

APN News & Media has received Overseas Investment Office approval for its plan to split out its NZME unit ahead of a potential merger with rival Fairfax Media's New Zealand operations. More>>

New Paper: Ninety-Day Trial Period Has No Impact On Firms' Hiring

The introduction of a 90-day trial period has had no impact on hiring by New Zealand companies although they are now in widespread use, according to researchers at Motu Economic and Public Policy Research. More>>

ALSO:

Corrections: Serco Exits Equity Stake, Remains As Operator

Serco has sold its equity stake in the company that holds the contract to design, build and run Wiri Prison in South Auckland but continues as sub-contractor to operate the facility. More>>

GDP: NZ Economy Grows Faster-Than-Forecast 0.7%

New Zealand's economy grew at a faster pace than expected in the first quarter of 2016 as construction expanded at the quickest rate in two years. The kiwi dollar jumped after the data was released. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sci-Tech
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news