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

 


Strange marine mammals of ancient North Pacific revealed

The pre-Ice Age marine mammal community of the North Pacific formed a strangely eclectic scene, research by a Geology PhD student at New Zealand’s University of Otago reveals.

Studying hundreds of fossil bones and teeth he excavated from the San Francisco Bay Area’s Purisima Formation, Robert Boessenecker has put together a record of 21 marine mammal species including dwarf baleen whales, odd double-tusked walruses, porpoises with severe underbites and a dolphin closely related to the now-extinct Chinese river dolphin.

Among his finds, which were fossilized 5 to 2.5 million years ago, is a new species of fossil whale, dubbedBalaenoptera bertae, a close relative of minke, fin, and blue whales.

Mr Boessenecker named the whale in honour of San Diego State University’s Professor Annalisa Berta, who has made numerous contributions to the study of fossil marine mammals and mentored many students.

Although an extinct species, it belongs within the same genus as minke and fin whales, indicating that theBalaenoptera lineage has lasted for 3-4 million years. Balaenoptera bertae would have been approximately 5-6 meters in length, slightly smaller than modern minke whales, Mr Boessenecker says.

His findings appear in the most recent edition of the international journal Geodiversitas.

The publication represents eight years of research by Mr Boessenecker, who was 18 in 2004 when he was tipped off by a local surfer about bones near Half Moon Bay. When he discovered the fossil site, he was astonished by the numerous bone-beds and hundreds of bones sticking out of the cliffs.

He excavated the incomplete skull of Balaenoptera bertae during early field research there in 2005 and it wasencased in a hard concretion that took five years to remove.

“The mix of marine mammals I ended up uncovering was almost completely different to that found in the North Pacific today, and to anywhere else at that time,” he says.

Primitive porpoises and baleen whales were living side-by-side with comparatively modern marine mammals such as the Northern fur seal and right whales. And species far geographically and climatically removed from their modern relatives also featured, such as beluga-like whales and tusked walruses, which today live in the Arctic, he says.

“At the same time as this eclectic mix of ancient and modern-type marine mammals was living together, the marine mammal fauna in the North Atlantic and Southern Ocean were already in the forms we find today.”

Mr Boessenecker says this strange fauna existed up until as recently as one or two million years ago. Its weirdness was likely maintained by warm equatorial waters and barriers to migration by other marine mammals posed by the newly formed Isthmus of Panama, and the still-closed Bering Strait.

“Once the Bering Strait opened and the equatorial Pacific cooled during the Ice Age, modernised marine mammals were able to migrate from other ocean basins into the North Pacific, leading to the mix we see today,” he says.

Mr Boessenecker was supported by University of Otago Doctoral Scholarship and a Montana State University Undergraduate Scholars Research Grant during this research.


Click for big version.

ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines

 

BusinessDesk: Weak Dairy Prices Prompt Pull Back In Fonterra Forecasts

Weak global dairy prices have prompted analysts to pull back their expectations for Fonterra Cooperative Group's payout to farmers for next season. More>>

Broadband Network: Spark Launches New, Competitive Ultra Fibre Plan Line-Up

Spark is giving customers an even more compelling reason to switch to its Ultra Fibre plans from today with the introduction of new competitive pricing for the majority of its plans (details below) and Fibre Landline (voice-over-fibre technology) for ... More>>

Employment: ANZ Proposes Casualisation In Whangarei Stores

ANZ workers in Whangarei could see their incomes drop by 20 to 40 percent if the bank’s proposal to reduce the number of full-time positions goes ahead says FIRST Union national organiser Tali Williams. More>>

Finance: BNZ Develops Specialist Tāmaki Māori Banking Team

BNZ develops specialist Tāmaki Māori Banking Team to support Māori as Auckland grows More>>

Pharmaceuticals: Commerce Commission To Consider Pharmaceuticals Merger

The Commerce Commission has received an application from Pfizer Inc. seeking clearance to acquire all of the shares in Hospira Inc. More>>

Real Estate: Housing Unaffordability Issues Spread

Surging house prices in Auckland and Queenstown last month pushed home ownership even further beyond the reach of first home buyers in the two districts, according to the AMP360 Home Loan Affordability Report for March. More>>

Statistics NZ: Annual Exports To China Dip Below Australia

The value of goods exports to Australia ($8.7 billion) surpassed those to China for the year ended March 2015, Statistics New Zealand said today. More>>

Science: Hookworm Discovery At Malaghan Institute

Professor Graham Le Gros has led a team which has stimulated both innate and memory responses to the parasite, discovering along the way the unexpected behaviour of one particular immune cell, in Hookworm, one of the world’s most devastating tropical ... More>>

Business: Provinces Urged To Make Full Use Of New Air Services

Provincial New Zealand has been urged to use new air services to Auckland or risk losing them either partially or completely. The stark warning was issued today by Far North mayor John Carter at a ceremony at Kaitaia airport to mark the final Air ... More>>

Mobile: 2degrees To Credit All Calls And SMS To Nepal

In the wake of the devastating earthquake in Nepal in the weekend, 2degrees will be crediting all calls and SMS messages made to mobiles and landlines in Nepal from Friday 24th April until midnight Wednesday 29th April. More>>

Scoop Business: Alex Swney Pleads Guilty To $2.5M Fraud Charge

Alex Swney, former chief executive of the Auckland city centre business association Heart of the City, has pleaded guilty to dishonestly using documents to obtain $2.5 million. More>>

ALSO:

Petrol Burns Prices: Second Consecutive Quarterly Fall For CPI

The consumers price index (CPI) fell 0.3 percent in the March 2015 quarter, following a 0.2 percent fall in the December 2014 quarter, Statistics New Zealand said today. The last time the CPI showed two consecutive quarterly falls was in the December 1998 and March 1999 quarters. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sci-Tech
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news