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Gabriel Aguirre (PhD completed 2013)

This page was last updated by Gabriel while he conducted his PhD research at the Department of Geology, University of Otago. Find out what Gabriel is doing now on our Alumni page.

Gabriel Aguirre lgPhD thesis: Neogene dolphins from New Zealand, implications for the evolution of the family Delphinidae (PhD completed 2013)

Supervisor: Ewan Fordyce

Gabriel Aguirre peers through the skull of a shark-toothed dolphin from Waitaki Valley, of Oligocene age ( roughly 25 Million years) 500px

Shark-toothed dolphin from Waitaki Valley, Oligocene age (~25 Million years)

Project description

In terms of evolution, Delphinidae is arguably the most successful family of living marine mammals: a) It is the most diverse family, with 36 of 89 species; b) It is the most ecologically versatile group of cetaceans, ranging from tropical to polar latitudes, neritic and oceanic waters, estuaries and sometimes rivers. The rapid and recent radiation of Delphinidae, among other peculiarities of their evolution, has made taxonomic classification difficult. Scientists have tried to resolve their phylogenetic relationships from many perspectives for five decades without a consensus other than the need of more basic taxonomic research, where the systematic work is based on. In fact, it is remarkable that “lack of understanding” is not considered a “threat faced by cetaceans” in the conservation action plan for the world’s cetaceans, particularly in the family Delphinidae: the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species categorised 65% as “data deficient”. Our research is based on important undescribed fossil specimens from New Zealand and considers the following targets: a) Descriptions of new, well-preserved key fossil specimens; b) A better estimate of the time of divergence and radiation of Delphinidae using molecular clock analysis calibrated with New Zealand fossils; c) A reanalysis of the phylogenetic relationships of stem and crown Delphinoidea.


Aguirre-Fernández, G., L.G. Barnes, F.J. Aranda-Manteca, J.R. Fernández-Rivera. 2009. Protoglobicephala mexicana, a new genus and species of Pliocene fossil dolphin (Cetacea; Odontoceti; Delphinidae) from the Gulf of California, Mexico. Boletín de la Sociedad Geológica Mexicana 61 (2). 245-265.

Downolad this article (open access): (5.3MB)

Conference presentations

Aguirre-Fernández, G., F. J. Aranda-Manteca, L. G. Barnes y J. R. Fernández-Rivera. 2008. Phylogenetic history of Delphinidae (Cetacea:Odontoceti) during the Pliocene of the Gulf of California. Abstract book of 22nd Annual Conference of the European Cetacean Society. p. 175. Egmond Aan Zee, The Netherlands.