Prehistoric Giant Dolphin Suddenly Discovered in the Amazon

Danny Ye /
Danny Ye /

People love to see dolphins. While many of us know that dolphins have a dastardly side, we still enjoy seeing them frolicking in the water and jumping for us to see.

However, if we could go back in time 16 million years we would see vastly different dolphins.

Researchers have discovered a freshwater dolphin species in the Peruvian Amazon that is distinctly different from the species they have today. This species’ nearest living relative is found 6,000 miles away in South Asia. Starkly different than what we see today, they were twice as large as the dolphins most people imagine. From the dimensions of the skull alone, researchers have determined that the body alone was 11 feet long. That makes it 25% or so bigger than the dolphins we see today.

However, this skull was not complete or even all that close to being complete. Measuring 27” on its own, scientists are left guessing about the true size of the skull and body of the dolphin. It excited the researchers greatly to discover, as it shows how diverse and widespread the freshwater dolphins are.

Jorge Velez-Juarbe, an associate curator of marine mammals at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, was astonished at their findings. “I think this is a remarkable discovery, particularly given that South America has one species of river dolphin that belongs to a completely different group of odontocetes (toothed whales). [It] makes me wonder too how many other records of extinct river dolphins are waiting to be discovered.”

Finds like these don’t happen often. Proving the migration of Asian river dolphins as well as their existence in such a faraway land is extraordinary and gives further hope to researchers that more could be thriving in other parts of the globe. If this discovery does nothing else, it should be pushing research far beyond where it currently is.