Thursday, August 9, 2012

Bohaskaia monodontoides

Bohaskaia monodontoides
The animal that we're going to learn about today has been extinct for around 3 million years-- but it bears a very striking similarity to some of the creatures that are still swimming around in the Earth's oceans, and also gives scientists some insight into where those modern animals came from.

Bohaskaia monodontoides is known from just a single skull that was unearthed in Virginia is 1969. It wasn't until very recently that it was studied using modern methods, and the species was only just named in spring 2012. The skull looked similar to that of a Beluga or Narwhal, yet was still different enough to be recognized as a different genus and species entirely.

Belugas and Narwhals, as you may know, live in cold waters. B. monodontoides swam in warmers seas, yet shared many of the same physical traits. Interestingly, another extinct whale Denebola brachycephala also hailed from warmer parts (the fossils were found in Baja, Mexico). It now appears that this particular group of whales evolved in the more temperate waters, but were eventually driven north were they adapted to the climate and survived. How this happened, and when it happened is not yet known, but it is pretty amazing to think that the warm-water origin discovery was due in part to a single fossil found over 40 years ago!

Status : Extinct for 3 million years
Location : North America
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Mammalia -- Order : Cetacea
Family : Monodontidae -- Genus : †Bohaskaia -- Species : †B. monodontoides

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