Smithsonian scientists have discovered the fossils of a new species of river dolphin that lived more than 5.8 million years ago.
Named Isthminia panamensis, the ancient mammal might have measured more than nine feet in length.
Modern river dolphins have broader flippers than their saltwater cousins, as well as more flexible necks and longer snouts, which help them hunt in silty water.
Researchers are particularly interested in river dolphins because they are so rare. Today, only four species are alive, and all of them are endangered. (One of them, the Chinese river dolphin, is considered “functionally extinct.”)
The fossils — which consist of half a skull, a right shoulder blade, two small flipper bones, and a lower jaw with teeth — were discovered on the coast of Piña, Panama.
The Smithsonian scientists who discovered them published their results Tuesday in the journal PeerJ. They hope the discovery sheds some light on when these dolphins abandoned the ocean for rivers.
“While whales and dolphins long ago evolved from terrestrial ancestors to fully marine mammals, river dolphins represent a reverse movement by returning inland to freshwater ecosystems,” said study co-author Aaron O’Dea in a statement. “As such, fossil specimens may tell stories not just of the evolution [of] these aquatic animals, but also of the changing geographies and ecosystems of the past.”
By Keith Wagstaff
Sep 01, 2015
This short article reminds us the importance of caring for our environment ~ our land, our oceans, our rivers, ourselves and all aspects of LIFE.
As Aaron O’Dea mentioned through his sharing, all species are important to let us know about the beauty of evolution of life and the importance on the changes of all ecosystems, which all affects all.
As Chief Seattle reminds us “Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.”
“All things share the same breath – the beast, the tree, the man… the air shares its spirit with all the life it supports.”
In caring heart