Name Meaning: Spiky Tooth
Location Found: Beaufort Country, South Carolina
Geologic Era: Miocene
Estimated Range: Europe, Japan, United States
Size: 3-4 meters long
Extinction Date: Middle Miocene (15 million years ago)
The bone was difficult to concretely identify. All I had to go on was that it was cetacean in origin, and the location/geologic era. Based on these factors, and the size of the bone, I have narrowed down the genus to Kentriodon. Kentriodon is known from the formation where this fossil was collected, and other Kentriodon specimens I have looked at appear similar. This bone is probably the first cervical vertebra, or the atlas. In life, it would have articulated with the occipital bone of the skull. In this bone, the posterior arch is missing, but the anterior features are mostly intact.
Kentriodon is known worldwide, and in appearance was not terribly different from the modern bottlenose dolphin. First describe in 1926 as a Miocene porpoise, Kentriodontids appear to have been a very successful group of animals. They have many similarities in appearance to modern dolphins, and may be either a direct or indirect ancestor to dolphins. It is thought that Kentriodon was capable of echolocation, and possibly traveled in pods. This would have afforded some protection against the large predators that shared Kentriodon’s habitat, including larger toothed whales and the giant shark Megalodon.
Kentriodon is known mostly from fragmented remains, though one feature of the remains is a dorsally positioned blowhole, similar to modern dolphins. Kentriodon probably fed on smaller fish and marine invertebrates such as squid. It’s pointed teeth would have been well equipped to catch either type of animal.
Life Reconstruction: By Nobu Tamura (http://spinops.blogspot.com) – Own work, CC BY 3.0, $3