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Dead sperm whale in The Wash, East Anglia, England. © CSIP-ZSL.

What have dead whales ever done for us?

When dead whales wash up on dry land they provide a vital food source for...
Risso's dolphin © Andy Knight

We’re getting to know Risso’s dolphins in Scotland so we can protect them

Citizen scientists in Scotland are helping us better understand Risso's dolphins by sending us their...
Pilot whales pooing © Christopher Swann

Talking crap and carcasses to protect our planet

We know we need to save the whale to save the world because they are...
Fin whales are targeted by Icelandic whalers

Speaking truth to power – my week giving whales a voice

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting is where governments come together to make decisions about whaling...

Why do whales and dolphins strand on beaches?

People often ask me 'why' whales and dolphins do one thing or another.  I'm a...
A spinner dolphin leaping © Andrew Sutton/Eco2

Head in a spin – my incredible spinner dolphin encounter

Sri Lanka is home to at least 30 species of whales and dolphins, from the...
Sperm whale (physeter macrocephalus) Gulf of California. The tail of a sperm whale.

To protect whales, we must stop ignoring the high seas

Almost two-thirds of the ocean, or 95% of the habitable space on Earth, are sloshing...
WDC team at UN Ocean conference

Give the ocean a chance – our message from the UN Ocean Conference

I'm looking out over the River Tejo in Lisbon, Portugal, reflecting on the astounding resilience...

Dolphin fossil holds the key to an evolutionary mystery!

Earlier this year when scientists discovered a whale graveyard in the Atacama region in Chile, we knew that we had embarked on exciting times in marine mammal science as our knowledge of extinct species and cetacean evolution was about to be radically expanded – what we didn’t realise at the time was just how rapidly that expansion would happen.

On the other side of the Pacific Ocean, researchers at Waseda University in Japan have determined that contrary to popular belief, dolphins have been around for twice as long as we had originally thought. By studying a fossil of a skull fragment from a dolphin, found in a Japanese river back in 1970, they were able to date dolphin origins all the way back to the late Miocene period some 8 to 13 million years ago.

This discovery has helped dispel one of the great mysteries of dolphin evolution as until now there has always been an inconsistency between the fossil records of dolphins (to date all have shown dolphins to have originated less than 6 million years ago) and molecular studies (which suggested that they actually originated between 9 and 12 million years ago). 

This new (or more correctly, old) species of dolphin has been named Eodelphis kabatensis – and it has the honour of being the earliest yet the latest dolphin species to be described to science.

The location of the fossil find is also important as although this work is in its infancy, and more specimens need to be discovered, the presence of Eodelphis in the Pacific Ocean suggests that dolphins may have had their origins in the Pacific. Then again … perhaps there are even older dolphin fossils out there somewhere just waiting to be discovered?