Sunday, 22 April 2018

New species of ancient whale identified and named by Otago palaeontologists



April 18, 2018, University of Otago

University of Otago palaeontologists are rewriting the history of New Zealand's ancient whales by describing a previously unknown genus of baleen whale, alive more than 27.5 million years ago and found in the Hakataramea Valley.

The new genus and species of extinct baleen whale is based on a skull and associated bones unearthed from the Kokoamu Greensand, a noted fossil-bearing rock unit in the South Canterbury and Waitaki district from the Oligocene period, which extends from about 33.9 million to 23 million years ago. At this time, New Zealand was an archipelago surrounded by shallow, richly productive seas.

Former Ph.D. student in the University of Otago's Department of Geology, Cheng-Hsiu Tsai and his supervisor, Professor Ewan Fordyce, have named the new genus Toipahautea waitaki, which translates in Māori as a baleen-origin whale from the Waitaki region.

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