Fossilized skull of river dolphin ancestor found in Ecuador swam the oceans 34 million years ago

Dec 21, 2017 | 1 comment

The fossilised remains of a new species of dolphin have been discovered in Ecuador, which date back more than 30 million years ago.

The dolphin is one of the few species to be found around the equator, with most dolphin fossils coming from more temperate regions.

Researchers believe the creature, which they have named Urkudelphis chawpipacha, is an ancestor of today’s river dolphins.

River dolphins are a dwindling population which only live in freshwater and brackish water. Pictured is an Amazon river dolphin.

The fossil was discovered in the tropical region of the Santa Elena Province in Ecuador by scientists from the Osaka Museum of Natural History.

It came as a surprise, as most dolphin fossils have been found around South Carolina, off the coast of Oregon, Hokkaido and in New Zealand.

To find remains of ancient dolphins in the Arctic or equatorial regions is a rarity.

Dr Yoshihiro Tanaka, lead author of the study, said: ‘The fossil is one of the few fossil dolphins from the equator, and is a reminder that Oligocene cetaceans may have ranged widely in tropical waters.’

An analysis of the dolphin’s skull revealed it had a unique head shape.

The dolphin had a bone crest front and centre on its face, above the eye sockets, and shorter and wider bones located near the top of the head as well as other differences to the bone structure of the cranium.

The researchers believe the creature may be the ancestor to modern-day river dolphins.

Credit: Daily Mail,

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