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Nearly 1000 humpbacks seen off southwestern Japan

Nearly 1000 humpbacks seen off southwestern Japan

Good news for whale watching operators and enthusiasts has emerged from Japan (a country normally...
Beluga whales prepare for June release into the world’s first open water sanctuary

Beluga whales prepare for June release into the world’s first open water sanctuary

We are pleased to announce that  two former captive Beluga whales, Little White and Little...
Coronavirus and New Zealand dolphins: many questions, few answers

Coronavirus and New Zealand dolphins: many questions, few answers

Like people over the world, New Zealanders have recently been faced with a lot of...
Success! Icelandic minke whale hunts end after years of WDC campaigning

Success! Icelandic minke whale hunts end after years of WDC campaigning

Following on from the news that Iceland’s fin whaling vessels will not be leaving port...

Pygmy sperm whale fossils shed light on whale evolution

Fossils found in Panama from a newly-discovered extinct species of pygmy sperm whale have cast new light on how modern day whales evolved.

Scientists from the National History Museum in Los Angeles, writing in the scientific journal PLOS ONE, analysed the skulls of two whales found in rocks in a sea cliff. The rock layer is thought to be about 7 million years old. They discovered that the skulls of these whales had larger a spermaceti organ than their modern day relatives, though it is not yet known why it shrunk over time. The organ is found in the head and plays a key role in the generation of sound and in the whale’s use of echolocation.

“The new discovery gives us a better understanding of the ancient distribution of these poorly known relatives of the sperm whale,” said lead scientist, Dr. Jorge Velez-Juarbe. The new whale species has been named Nanokogia isthmia after the Isthmus of Panama.

The spermaceti organ contains a waxy liquid that was highly sought after by whalers and led to the death of hundreds of thousands of sperm whales (a distant relative of pygmy sperm whales) during the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. The oil was used in everything from candles and cosmetics to engines in luxury cars.