A 30 million-year-old skull recently found in South Carolina has been identified as a bizarre “toothless dwarf dolphin” that fed by “vacuuming” other animals off the seafloor.
Instead of teeth, the creature had a beak-like snout, along with enlarged lips and whiskers, scientists said. It existed along the South Carolina coast 28 to 30 million years ago, officials said.
The discovery was announced Wednesday in the Royal Society’s biological journal. The society is a fellowship of many of the world’s most eminent scientists. The article noted the find was “explosive” in regards to its revelations on the diversification of modern whales.
The animal’s prey was likely fish, squid and other soft-bodied invertebrates on the seafloor, Boessenecker said.
The dolphin’s scientific name, Inermorostrum xenops, means “defenseless snout,” and the creature only grew to be about 4 feet long, an article published by the College of Charleston states. Modern dolphins can get up to 8 feet long, experts said.
The skull was discovered by a diver in the Wando River in Charleston and is now on display in the Mace Brown Museum of Natural History at College of Charleston, the article reported.
Phys.org lauded the find, saying the “objectively cute mini-dolphin” was a case study for evolution.