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Newly discovered ancient porpoise had a record-breaking underbite

Rick Docksai | Science Recorder | March 14, 2014

Newly discovered ancient porpoise had a record-breaking underbite

An extinct porpoise that lived 1.5 million to 5.3 million years ago off the coast of what is now California had a chin of record proportions.

An extinct porpoise sets the record for the largest underbite that scientists have ever found on a mammal. Rachel Racicot, a doctoral candidate at Yale University and the lead author of a paper describing the porpoise in Current Biology, used its unusual jaw to sift for prey through expanses of now-vanished underwater embankments off the present-day California coast.

The species is Semirostrum cerutti, and it lived a few million years shy of the rise of humans. Credit for discovery of the species goes to Richard Cerutti, a collector from the San Diego Natural History Museum who first identified fossils of this ancient marine mammal in old rock formations on the California coast in 1990. Years later, Racicot and colleagues examined the fossils, which came from 15 different specimens all dating from 1.5 to 5.3 million years ago, to produce the Current Biology study.

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