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These dolphins swam in an ocean in the Swiss Plateau region, or “Mittelland”, twenty million years ago. Researchers have now discovered two previously unknown species.
They did so, by examining around 300 fossils of whales and dolphins dating from this period. For research purposes, the most interesting remains are the bones from the inner ear, as they allow individual species to be classified.
The problem is that these types of bones are less commonly found. “Nevertheless, we managed to identify two families of dolphins previously unknown in Switzerland,” says paleontologist Gabriel Aguirre, summarizing the study results.
Thanks to micro-computed tomography, the researchers were able to reconstruct the softer organs around the hard ear bones to create 3D models of the ears. “This helped us better analyze the dolphins’ hearing ability,” Aguirre explains. According to the study data, the extinct animals are related to the sperm whales and oceanic dolphins living today.
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