Project 2238: F. G. Marx, C. Tsai, R. E. Fordyce. 2015. A new Early Oligocene toothed ‘baleen’ whale (Mysticeti: Aetiocetidae) from western North America: one of the oldest and the smallest. Royal Society Open Science. 2 (12):150476.
Specimen: † Fucaia buelli (UWBM:84024)


Archaic toothed mysticetes represent the evolutionary transition from raptorial to bulk filter feeding in baleen whales. Aetiocetids, in particular, preserve an intermediate morphological stage in which teeth functioned alongside a precursor of baleen, the hallmark of all modern mysticetes. To date, however, aetiocetids are almost exclusively Late Oligocene and coeval with both other toothed mysticetes and fully fledged filter feeders. By contrast, reports of cetaceans from the Early Oligocene remain rare, leaving the origins of aetiocetids, and thus of baleen, largely in the dark. Here, we report a new aetiocetid, Fucaia buelli, from the earliest Oligocene (ca 33–31 Ma) of western North America. The new material narrows the temporal gap between aetiocetids and the oldest known mysticete, Llanocetus (ca 34 Ma). The specimen preserves abundant morphological detail relating to the phylogenetically informative ear bones (otherwise poorly documented in this family), the hyoid apparatus and much of the (heterodont) dentition. Fucaia comprises some of the smallest known mysticetes, comparable in size with the smallest odontocetes. Based on their phylogenetic relationships and dental and mandibular morphology, including tooth wear patterns, we propose that aetiocetids were suction-assisted raptorial feeders and interpret this strategy as a crucial, intermediary step, enabling the transition from raptorial to filter feeding. Following this line of argument, a combination of raptorial and suction feeding would have been ancestral to all toothed mysticetes, and possibly even baleen whales as a whole.

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Article DOI: 10.1098/rsos.150476

Project DOI: 10.7934/P2238,
This project containsMatrices
  • 52 Media
  • 1 Matrix
  • 1 Document
  • 1 Taxon
  • 1 Specimen
  • 272 Characters
Total size of project's media files: 19.87M

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Total scored cells: 272
Total media associated with cells: 172
Total labels associated with cell media: 186
Total characters: 272
Total characters with associated media: 0
Total characters with media with labels: 0
Total character states: 635
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    Authors' Institutions

    • National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution

    • University of Otago

    • National Museum of Nature and Science, Japan


    member name taxa specimens media chars character
    cell scorings
    (scored, NPA, "-")
    notes  medialabels
    Felix Marx
    Project Administrator
    Last logged in 12/02/15
    (149, 120, 3)

    Taxonomic Overview for Matrix 'M23561' (1 Taxon)

    taxon unscored
    no cell
    "-" cellscell images labels on
    cell images
    [1] † Fucaia buelli
    Last Modified in 09/10/15

    Project views

    type number of views Individual items viewed (where applicable)
    Total project views27436
    Project overview2758
    Matrix views1772Matrix landing page (1575 views); Fucaia (197 views);
    Documents list1172
    Media views18236Media search (2665 views); M390797 (320 views); M390787 (376 views); M390819 (278 views); M390829 (282 views); M390786 (282 views); M390836 (275 views); M390790 (338 views); M390810 (279 views); M390830 (279 views); M390806 (307 views); M390834 (263 views); M390825 (272 views); M390818 (313 views); M390816 (327 views); M390833 (256 views); M390813 (311 views); M390793 (406 views); M390832 (270 views); M390823 (283 views); M390831 (267 views); M390788 (343 views); M390792 (311 views); M390812 (323 views); M390799 (315 views); M390822 (309 views); M390814 (294 views); M390804 (275 views); M390824 (286 views); M390794 (305 views); M390821 (295 views); M390802 (285 views); M390827 (276 views); M390820 (303 views); M390811 (296 views); M390835 (285 views); M395328 (291 views); M390795 (299 views); M390796 (293 views); M390826 (273 views); M390789 (288 views); M390800 (309 views); M390808 (311 views); M390807 (322 views); M390798 (273 views); M390815 (293 views); M390791 (342 views); M390809 (301 views); M390803 (295 views); M390817 (305 views); M390805 (322 views); M390828 (257 views); M390801 (312 views);
    Taxon list1555
    Specimen list1293

    Project downloads

    type number of downloads Individual items downloaded (where applicable)
    Total downloads from project248
    Document downloads6Fucaia complete matrix (6 downloads);
    Project downloads218
    Matrix downloads24Fucaia (24 downloads);