Strange marine mammals of ancient North Pacific revealed
PostedFebruary 7, 2014
The pre-Ice Age marine mammal community of the North Pacific formed a strangely eclectic scene, research by a Geology PhD student at New Zealand’s University of Otago reveals.
Studying hundreds of fossil bones and teeth he excavated from the San Francisco Bay Area’s Purisima Formation, Robert Boessenecker has put together a record of 21 marine mammal species including dwarf baleen whales, odd double-tusked walruses, porpoises with severe underbites and a dolphin closely related to the now-extinct Chinese river dolphin.
Among his finds, which were fossilized 5 to 2.5 million years ago, is a new species of fossil whale, dubbed Balaenoptera bertae, a close relative of minke, fin, and blue whales.
Mr Boessenecker named the whale in honour of San Diego State University’s Professor Annalisa Berta, who has made numerous contributions to the study of fossil marine mammals and mentored many students.