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Odobenocetops peruvianus was described by Christian de Muizon in 1993 and is early Pliocene in age (5.3 - 3.6 m.y.). It was discovered in southern Peru (de Muizon, 1993). The genus Odobenocetops is a bizarre one that is comprised of two species, O. peruvianus and O. leptodon (de Muizon, 1993). These two species are quite an extraordinary case of convergent evolution and a truly bizarre form of cetacean (whales, dolphins and porpoises). While its post-cranial morphology looks like those of a typical odontocete (toothed whale), its skull and feeding habits seem to converge towards those of the modern walrus (Odobenus rosmarus) (de Muizon et al., 2002). This is rather amazing, considering that the walrus is a member of the Order Carnivora and is largely unrelated to whales.

O. peruvianus defies the evolutionary odontocete pattern, by having a rostrum (snout) that is sharply angled downwards and a nasal opening that is drifting back towards the tip of the snout (de Muizon & Daryl, 2002). It also has an arched palette that aids in suction feeding and large, asymmetrical tusks (de Muizon et al., 2002). It lived in coastal, shallow-water habitats and, like the modern walrus, fed on hard-shelled, benthic invertebrates (de Muizon, 1993; de Muizon et al., 1999; de Muizon et al., 2002).

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© Joseph Villari

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