Research student Alex Boersma with the type fossil specimen of Albicetus mxymycterus, composed of the beak and lower jaws of the whale. Boersma also hold a tooth from the specimen, which is about 14-16 million years old. In re-examining this fossil sperm whale for the first time in 90 years, the Smithsonian team created an entirely new group in the sperm whale family, Albicetus; introduced the species, Albicetus oxymycterus, to a new branch on the sperm whale family tree and argued that the toothy fossil provides evidence of ancient seas that were rich in the number and diversity of marine mammals present. The team’s findings are published in the December 9 issue of the scientific journal PLOS ONE.
Photo by James Di Loreto / Smithsonian