Yesterday's issue of the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B witnessed the publication of a new study stating that, as peculiar as this may sound, a type of whale that science labeled as having become extinct nearly 2 million years ago is actually still inhabiting our oceans.
The researchers who looked into this issue explain that, after analyzing the skull bones of various pygmy whales, and after also looking into their genetic make-up, they reached the conclusion that this marine mammal is in fact the last living relative of a group of ancient marine mammals.
Said group of ancient marine mammals is referred to by paleontologists as cetotheres, and specialists explain that they first emerged about 15 million years ago and that soon enough they made oceans all across the globe their home.
Apparently, this explains why pygmy whales look anything but similar to the other species of marine mammals that are presently part and parcel of marine biodiversity.
Thus, pygmy whales only grow to be about 21 feet (6.5 meters) long, and spend most of their time swimming around in the Southern Hemisphere.
Because they tend to keep to themselves, they are only spotted every once in a while and marine biologists have a rather difficult time making head and tail of their behavior and characteristics.
LiveScience quotes Felix Marx, a paleontologist presently working with the University of Otago in New Zealand, who was pretty straightforward in explaining that, “The living pygmy right whale is, if you like, a remnant, almost like a living fossil.”
“It's the last survivor of quite an ancient lineage that until now no one thought was around,” this specialist went on to add.
The researchers hope that, by studying the behavior of pygmy whales, they will be able to learn a thing or two about the cetotheres and how they lived.
As well as this, the pygmy whales are expected to help them piece together a so-called whale lineage.