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
Total character states with associated media: 0
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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
    (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 views38533
    Project overview3296
    Matrix views2127Matrix landing page (1889 views); Fucaia (238 views);
    Documents list1456
    Media views26876Media search (3628 views); M390797 (470 views); M390787 (558 views); M390819 (429 views); M390829 (425 views); M390786 (428 views); M390836 (401 views); M390790 (496 views); M390810 (428 views); M390830 (400 views); M390806 (458 views); M390834 (388 views); M390825 (416 views); M390818 (464 views); M390816 (481 views); M390833 (395 views); M390813 (450 views); M390793 (556 views); M390832 (389 views); M390823 (426 views); M390831 (396 views); M390788 (500 views); M390792 (455 views); M390812 (467 views); M390799 (467 views); M390822 (496 views); M390814 (516 views); M390804 (418 views); M390824 (443 views); M390794 (447 views); M390821 (444 views); M390802 (437 views); M390827 (410 views); M390820 (454 views); M390811 (451 views); M390835 (404 views); M395328 (409 views); M390795 (447 views); M390796 (444 views); M390826 (424 views); M390789 (436 views); M390800 (471 views); M390808 (462 views); M390807 (464 views); M390798 (433 views); M390815 (438 views); M390791 (495 views); M390809 (453 views); M390803 (441 views); M390817 (454 views); M390805 (466 views); M390828 (385 views); M390801 (463 views);
    Taxon list1951
    Specimen list1926

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    type number of downloads Individual items downloaded (where applicable)
    Total downloads from project346
    Document downloads9Fucaia complete matrix (9 downloads);
    Project downloads310
    Matrix downloads27Fucaia (27 downloads);