A New Species of Dolphin with Unique Teeth Discovered in New Zealand

Scientists have discovered a dolphin with curved teeth in New Zealand, which lived 22-23 million years ago

Dolphin Image
Dolphin image, illustrative photo / Linnaea Mallette, CC0 1.0 DEED

Paleontologists have discovered a new species of dolphins that lived in the seas off the coast of modern New Zealand around 22-23 million years ago.

The name of this ancient mammal, Aureia rerehua, comes from the Maori language and translates as "beautiful cloak clasp".

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This species was distinguished by unique curved teeth pointing outward, which presumably helped it catch small fish.

The study, the results of which were published in the Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand, showed that similar dental adaptations were present in other ancient cetaceans.

For example, Odobenocetops, resembling walruses and living along the Pacific coast of South America in the Miocene, had asymmetric tusks used in mating rituals or as sensory organs, while Nihohae matakoi from New Zealand’s Oligocene period had protruding teeth for striking prey, similar to modern sawfish and saw sharks.

Shane McQuin and his team from the University of Otago studied well-preserved remains of the skull, spine, and ribs found on the South Island of New Zealand, aged 22-23 million years.

These findings belong to a new species of dolphins from the superfamily Platanistoidea, closely related to the genus Otekaikea.

Aureia rerehua stands out with its thin curved teeth, which likely formed a sieve-like structure for catching small fish when the mouth was closed, making it an effective hunter in shallow waters in combination with echolocation and a flexible neck.

Another interesting fact concerns a small species of dolphins, Inermorostrum xenops, which lived about 29 million years ago in the southeastern USA, had no teeth, and likely fed on small fish and cephalopods through suction feeding.

It was previously reported that the discovery of unique fossilized ancient trees, aged 350 million years, in New Brunswick, Canada, provides valuable information about early ecosystems and the evolution of plant life on Earth, revealing new aspects of the planet's ancient history.

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