A new delphinid from the lower Pliocene of the North Sea and the early radiations of true dolphins

Belluzzo, Alice; Lambert, Olivier

With a remarkable exception for the Mediterranean, the worldwide Pliocene record of true dolphins (Cetacea, Odontoceti, Delphinidae) remains scarce, in stark contrast with the large number of extant species testifying to the evolutionary success of this family. Based on a fragmentary skull discovered in lower Pliocene deposits (Zanclean, 5 to 4.4 Ma) of the Kattendijk Formation in the Antwerp harbour (Belgium, southern margin of the North Sea basin), we describe here a new delphinid species, Pliodelphis doelensis gen. et sp. nov. This small dolphin with cranial dimensions in the range of the short-beaked common dolphin Delphinus delphis can be distinguished from other extinct and extant delphinids by a combination of cranial features including the maxilla being significantly narrower than the premaxilla at a short distance anterior to the antorbital notch in dorsal view, the maximum opening of the mesorostral groove being located at the level of the antorbital notches, a transversely wide and anteroposteriorly long dorsal exposure of the presphenoid anterior to the bony nares, and all dorsal infraorbital foramina being located posterior to the premaxillary foramina. P. doelensis constitutes the first member of the family described from the early Pliocene of the North Sea basin and, for the whole North Atlantic realm, only the third outside the Mediterranean. This new record contributes thus to our understanding of the poorly known Pliocene radiation(s) of true dolphins.

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Belluzzo, Alice / Lambert, Olivier: A new delphinid from the lower Pliocene of the North Sea and the early radiations of true dolphins. 2021. Copernicus Publications.

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