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This ancient dwarf dolphin may have slurped its food like a walrus
By Sid Perkins Aug. 22, 2017 , 7:01 PM

Youd think a toothed whale would have teeth. But scientists examining the 30-million-year-old partial
skulls of two dwarf dolphins found that not only were they missing their pearly whites, but the snub-nosed
cetaceans likely slurped up their prey from the sea oor. The paleontologists who analyzed two partial
skulls found in South Carolinaone recently discovered by a diver and the other unearthed from the same
formation more than 30 years agoput the long-extinct creature in a new genus dubbed Inermorostrum,
which roughly translated from Latin means defenseless snout. Larger-than-normal holes that once carried
blood vessels and nerves through the bones of the snout suggest the dolphin had enlarged lips needed to
feed via suction, the researchers report today in theProceedings of the Royal Society B. The marine

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9/14/2017 This ancient dwarf dolphin may have slurped its food like a walrus | Science | AAAS

mammal may even have had short, walrus-like whiskers to better sense prey while grubbing through
sea oor sediments, the researchers speculate. Likely measuring between 1.2- and 1.5-meters long, the
dolphin was about the same size as todays vaquita, the worlds smallest and most endangered cetacean,
and it likely foraged in shallow, near-shore waters. Inermorostrum evolved its unusual feeding style just 4
million years after the toothed whale lineage split from the branch of the family tree that includes the
ancestors of todays baleen whales such as humpbacks, which lter their food through frayed sheets of
keratin, the same material in human ngernails.

Posted in: Paleontology


doi:10.1126/science.aap7486

Sid Perkins
Sid is a freelance science journalist.
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