'Balloon head' dolphin discovered

Artist's impression of Hoekman's blunt-snouted dolphin (R Bakker/Manimal Works) The fossil's concave shape suggests it fit below a dome-like forehead

Related Stories

A new type of dolphin with a short, spoon-shaped nose and high, bulbous forehead has been identified from a fossil found in the North Sea.

The Platalearostrum hoekmani was named after Albert Hoekman, the Dutch fisherman who in 2008 trawled up a bone from the creature's skull.

Up to six metres in length, the dolphin lived two to three million years ago.

The so-called rostrum bone and a model of the dolphin are on display at the Natural History Museum Rotterdam.

As museum researchers Klaas Post and Erwin Kompanje write in the museum's journal Deinsea, the North Sea has been a rich source of fossils in recent decades as bottom-trawling has become more prevalent.

The practice has yielded tens of thousands of pieces of the fossil record - many of which defy classification.

Premaxilla of Hoekman's blunt-snouted dolphin (Natuurhistorisch Museum Rotterdam) The fossil is one of thousands that must be fitted into a fuller catalogue of marine mammals

What is clear from the singular bone found by Mr Hoekman is that the animal from which it came fits neatly in the family of marine mammals known as Delphinids - the ocean-going dolphins that actually includes both killer and pilot whales.

More specific classification within this family is somewhat speculative.

The bone shows an unusually large tip region containing six teeth known as the premaxilla. This feature suggests the broad, blunt nature of the creature's snout.

Based on analyses of similar fossils and modern relatives within the family, the researchers are convinced they have found a new species whose closest living relative is the pilot whale.

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Science & Environment stories

RSS

Features

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.