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Ancient whale species sheds new light on its modern relatives
Date:3/25/2012

temperate climate of Virginia, and a second extinct beluga-related toothed whale, Denebola branchycephala is known from a fossil found in Baja California, Velez-Juarbe and Pyenson surmise that the cold-climate adaptations of narwhals and beluga, which today live and breed only in the Arctic and sub-arctic, must have evolved only recently.

"The fact is that living belugas and narwhals are found only in the Arctic and subarctic, yet the early fossil record of the monodontids extends well into temperate and tropical regions," Pyenson says. "For evidence of how and when the Arctic adaptations of belugas and narwhals arose we will have to look more recently in time."

The change may be "related to oceanographic changes during or after the Pliocene affecting the marine food chain," Velez-Juarbe says, "then competition or dietary preferences drove monodontids further north."


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Contact: John Gibbons
gibbonsjp@si.edu
202-633-5187
Smithsonian
Source:Eurekalert  

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