Central Coast Critters: Midget Dolphin

Hey there every peoples!

Sorry for the long delay. I have just had so much to deal with lately (a persuasive speech for speech class, math and geology tests, getting diagnosed with a mild case of clinical depression). And I’m still working on it so try and bear with me if the post is a little brief.

Today I bring you another fantastic fossil from the Central Coast. This time it’s a very tiny dolphin. This specimen was found and collected by Howell Thomas of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. It was found in shales of the late Miocene Monterey Formation (10-12 mya) along the shores of Vandenberg Air Force Base. Here it is in all its glory:

Cast of a very small dolphin skeleton at the Lompoc Museum

To give you an idea of how small it is, that scale bar is a foot long! Its skull was about the size of my hand and its vertebra were barely bigger than a quarter. It is still unknown if it is an adult or a juvenile, but if it’s full gown it would be the smallest cetacean known. It is also in need of a name but I have no idea what that is because last I checked it was still under study. Let’s hope they figure it out soon.

Diminutive skull of the Vandenberg Midget Dolphin

Quarter-sized vertebra of the Vandenberg Midget Dolphin

Till next time!

5 thoughts on “Central Coast Critters: Midget Dolphin

  1. I’ve seen pictures of the original specimen elsewhere before (your flickr account, perhaps??). That is indeed super tiny – I’m skeptical of it being an adult (i.e. perhaps it is a juvenile Salumiphocoena) but then again, stranger marine mammals have happened before. Bobby

  2. Well, there are several things that could be done right now: 1) examine the bones for epiphyseal fusion (i.e. vertebrae, forelimb elements); 2) Identify juvenile features on the skull (which gets fuzzy due to the paedomorphic nature of phocoenines) and 3) see if it has any of the hallmark features of Salumiphocoena or other late Miocene phocoenids. Some folks in paleo have a tendency for identifying juveniles or previously discovered taxa as adults of new, oddly primitive dwarf genera (cough Dracorex, Stygimoloch, Nannotyrannus cough cough).

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