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13 May 2014

Dolphin Skull - A Clue To How Old Dolphins Are?

How long have dolphins been swimming in the Earth’s oceans? Well, a recent discovery means we are closer to knowing the answer to this question than ever before.

In 1970, a fragment of fossilised dolphin skull was found in Japan. At the time, scientists thought it to be 7 million years old. However, recent research on the fossil has in fact aged it at 13 million years old – 6 million years older than previously thought! 

The piece of skull is an exciting find because it belonged to a species of dolphin that disappeared from our oceans a very long time ago. Research on the skull can help answer important questions about dolphin evolution such as; Where have our current dolphin species have come from? And; When did dolphins first appear on the planet?

Scientists have named this pre-historic dolphin Eodelphis kabatensis (Phew! That’s a tricky one), and it is, so far, the earliest species of dolphin that has ever been found.

However, important fossils aren’t just being found in Japan; elsewhere around the world fossils are appearing in other places too such as a recently discovered whale graveyard in Chile!

So currently the 13 million year old Eodelphis kabatensis holds the top spot as the oldest dolphin species we know to have existed…but who knows? Perhaps there are even older dolphin fossils out there somewhere just waiting to be discovered…

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