A not unexpected surprise. But a nice one.
Scientists in Brazil have discovered the first new river dolphin species since the end of World War One.
Named after the Araguaia river where it was found, the species is only the fifth known of its kind in the world.
Writing in the journal Plos One, the researchers say it separated from other South American river species more than two million years ago.
People see these dolphins all the time, say the researchers but DNA showed it was a new species. This is how new species are frequently discovered. It was not really a surprise to see that there was a unique DNA signature.
Note: This discovery is, again, not related to the field cryptozoology. I’m just pointing that out because, again, as usual, cryptozoology fans will point out this is a promising find. Sure, it’s great but it’s NOT cryptozoology. The finding of new species that are within the bounds of expectation and do not have a legendary reputation is how regular science progresses. It does not lend credence to the idea that reported mystery monsters like Bigfoot, Yeti or sea serpents exist.
True river dolphins are some of the rarest and most endangered of all vertebrates. They comprise relict evolutionary lineages of high taxonomic distinctness and conservation value, but are afforded little protection. We report the discovery of a new species of a river dolphin from the Araguaia River basin of Brazil, the first such discovery in nearly 100 years. The species is diagnosable by a series of molecular and morphological characters and diverged from its Amazonian sister taxon 2.08 million years ago. The estimated time of divergence corresponds to the separation of the Araguaia-Tocantins basin from the Amazon basin. This discovery highlights the immensity of the deficit in our knowledge of Neotropical biodiversity, as well as vulnerability of biodiversity to anthropogenic actions in an increasingly threatened landscape. We anticipate that this study will provide an impetus for the taxonomic and conservation reanalysis of other taxa shared between the Araguaia and Amazon aquatic ecosystems, as well as stimulate historical biogeographical analyses of the two basins.
River dolphins are critically endangered. They have long beaks and so look different than sea-going dolphins.
Tip: Marcus Sprenkel