Museum Collection Reveals New Species Of Extinct Dolphin

Last month we brought you news about a new species of whale which had been discovered using a washed-up carcass and a museum exhibit of a skeleton. It seems that museums are filled with hidden species of marine mammals as a new prehistoric species of dolphin has been discovered amongst the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History fossil collection.

An incomplete skull collected by Donald J Miller in 1951 from the Yakataga region of Alaska has remained undescribed in the museums collection for decades until Nicholas D. Pyenson and Alexandra Boersma took a closer look at it. AftArktocara_thaloblueer comparison with the skulls of other dolphin species the scientists discovered that the skull belonged to a whole new species most likely an ancient species which swam in the subarctic waters of Alaska some 25 million years ago.

The dolphin skull is from a group of species called Platanistoidea. There were once several species of marine mammals in this group however today there is just the endangered South Asian river dolphin Platanista gangetica.“Considering the only living dolphin in this group is restricted to freshwater systems in Southeast Asia, to find a relative that was all the way up in Alaska 25 million years ago was kind of mind-boggling,” Boersma said in the statement.

Researchers have named the species Arktocara yakataga after where it was found. Arktocara means face of the North and yakataga refers to the indigenous Tlingit people’s name for the region where the fossil was found.


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