Quirks & Quarks

Whale Fossil Shows Early Echolocation

A 28-million-year-old skull fossil, found in the waters off Charleston, South Carolina, has provided evidence that echolocation in toothed whales may have emerged earlier than previously thought....

A new study by Dr. Jonathan Geisler, an Associate Professor of Anatomy from the New York Institute of Technology, found that the skull has several features that are characteristics of echolocation.  These include dense bone, asymmetry of the cranium and air pockets that allow the whale to generate sound from its face, rather than the larynx, as with other echolocators. The age of the fossil indicates that echolocation in this group, which went on to include dolphins, porpoises and toothed whales, emerged not long after it split from the group that included the ancestor of baleen whales. 

Related Links

  • Paper in Nature
  • New York Institute of Technology news
  • New York Institute of Technology Whale and Dolphin Evolution website
  • Reuters story
  • Live Science story

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