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 views47499
    Project overview3979
    Matrix views2385Matrix landing page (2123 views); Fucaia (262 views);
    Documents list1672
    Media views33680Media search (4396 views); M390797 (591 views); M390787 (673 views); M390819 (538 views); M390829 (539 views); M390786 (543 views); M390836 (509 views); M390790 (619 views); M390810 (554 views); M390830 (496 views); M390806 (584 views); M390834 (505 views); M390825 (519 views); M390818 (583 views); M390816 (591 views); M390833 (511 views); M390813 (562 views); M390793 (678 views); M390832 (493 views); M390823 (543 views); M390831 (507 views); M390788 (613 views); M390792 (571 views); M390812 (576 views); M390799 (590 views); M390822 (624 views); M390814 (692 views); M390804 (529 views); M390824 (559 views); M390794 (569 views); M390821 (563 views); M390802 (561 views); M390827 (526 views); M390820 (576 views); M390811 (572 views); M390835 (495 views); M395328 (503 views); M390795 (554 views); M390796 (559 views); M390826 (542 views); M390789 (549 views); M390800 (587 views); M390808 (577 views); M390807 (586 views); M390798 (538 views); M390815 (551 views); M390791 (620 views); M390809 (575 views); M390803 (555 views); M390817 (570 views); M390805 (584 views); M390828 (498 views); M390801 (582 views);
    Taxon list2258
    Specimen list2410

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    type number of downloads Individual items downloaded (where applicable)
    Total downloads from project350
    Document downloads9Fucaia complete matrix (9 downloads);
    Project downloads311
    Matrix downloads30Fucaia (30 downloads);