Scientists have determined that a skull that had been sitting in a drawer at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington for more than 60 years belonged to a previously unknown species of extinct dolphin.
The animal, whose skull was found in Yakutat, Alaska, in 1951, has been given the name Arktocara yakataga, which can be loosely translated from the Greek as “the north face from Yakutat.” Its description is in the journal PeerJ.
There is one descendant of Arktocara still extant, the South Asian river dolphin, a freshwater animal that is itself on the edge of extinction. Arktocara was almost certainly an oceanic creature.
The dolphin’s discoverer, Alexandra T. Boersma, a researcher at the National Museum, said that judging only from the size of the skull, it was probably about seven and a half feet long. It had a flexible neck, unlike oceanic dolphins, whose necks are hardly distinguishable from their bodies. She estimates that it lived about 25 million years ago.
“One of the great things about the Smithsonian,” Ms. Boersma said, “is that the collections are so vast. We were just walking around to see if anything was interesting. And then, wow!”
Source: New York Times