Fossil whale skull hints at echolocation’s origins

Underwater sonar may have developed 34 million years ago

2:00pm, March 12, 2014

PING ME  The skull of the 28-million-year-old Cotylocara macei suggests that this early toothed whale used echolocation.

The skull of a newly identified species of extinct toothed whale may help scientists piece together when echolocation evolved underwater.

Recovered from a drainage ditch in South Carolina, the 28-million-year-old fossil has a deep pit in the top of its head that divides the right and left sides of the skull. “It’s a highly unusual feature,” says Jonathan Geisler, an anatomist at the New York Institute of Technology in Old Westbury, adding that no other known whale, dolphin or porpoise has such a pit. “It’s really bizarre.”

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