Beluga whale, narwhal and Pliocene relative »Bohaskaia monodontoides« in front, shown in artist impression by Carl Buell.

Arctic beluga whales and narwhals had a close relative in Pliocene waters

By greenland today via Science News Releases

31 MAR 2012

Beluga whales and narwhals live solely in the cold waters of the Arctic and sub-arctic. Smithsonian scientists, however, found that this may not have always been the case.


They recently described a new species of toothed whale and close relative to today’s belugas and narwhals that lived some 3-4 million years ago during the Pliocene in warm water regions.


Why and when its modern-day relatives evolved to live only in northern latitudes remains a mystery.



This new species, Bohaskaia monodontoides, is known only from a nearly complete skull found in 1969 in a mine near the city Hampton, Virginia, US.


Since its discovery, the skull has been housed in the paleontology collections of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. It was loosely identified as belonging to a beluga whale, and it had never been closely studied before now.


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Beluga whales(Delphinapterus leucas) in Greenland. Photo by Mads Peter Heide-Jorgensen, Greenland Institute of Natural Resources. <See more>



Narwhales(Delphinapterus leucas) in Greenland. Photo by Flemming Ravn Merkel Greenland Institute of Natural Resources. <See more>