Skip to main content
  1. News
  2. Science & Space

New species of ancient dolphin discovered in New Zealand

See also

Dr. Gabriel Aguirre and Professor Ewan Fordyce from Department of Geology at the University of Otago in New Zealand announced their discovery of a new ancient fossil dolphin species in the Jan. 22, 2014, edition of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

This new species, Papahu taitapu, is the only dolphin ever found that dates to the Early Miocene times. The fossils are between 19 and 22 million years old and were found in near Cape Farewell. The head and a jaw are all that has been extracted from the rock strata thus far.

The animals were about six feet long, had teeth, are considered to be a member of the now extinct species of shark-toothed dolphins, and had echolocation like modern dolphins. Examination of the skull and ear bones indicated the existence of the same space where the brain regions of modern dolphins house the echolocation sensory apparatus. This discovery suggests that the ancient dolphin had already evolved the capacity to hunt prey with echolocation like modern dolphins and could also suggest the ability to communicate with other members of its species.

Papahu taitapu cohabited the waters of a shallow sea around what is now New Zealand and shared the territory with ancient penguins and baleen whales. The waters of the ocean are thought to have been murky from algae due to the higher temperatures in the region at the time. This condition may have led to the development of echolocation as a means to find prey in Papahu taitapu.



  • Baseball Hall of Fame
    The Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown welcomes six new inductees
  • 2012 do-over
    If we were to re-do the 2012 election, a new poll suggests Romney would win
  • Boko Haram
    Boko Haram kidnaps the wife of the vice prime minister of Cameroon
    World News
  • Ceasefire breaks
    Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu claims Hamas broke another brief ceasefire
  • Close call with CME
    Scientists tell how Earth survived a giant solar flare back in 2012
  • Comic-Con
    What's going on at Comic-Con? Get all the latest updates here

Related Videos:

  • Buzz Aldrin and the American flag on the moon
    <iframe width="420" height="315" src="//;allowfullscreen=true&amp;autoplay=1"></iframe>
  • Orbital Sciences rocket brings supplies and experiments to space station
    <div class="video-info" data-id="518318477" data-param-name="playList" data-provider="5min" data-url=""></div>
  • Liftoff Apollo 11
    <iframe width="420" height="315" src="//;allowfullscreen=true&amp;autoplay=1"></iframe>