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
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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 views23063
    Project overview2478
    Matrix views1585Matrix landing page (1402 views); Fucaia (183 views);
    Documents list1061
    Media views14933Media search (2238 views); M390797 (258 views); M390787 (293 views); M390819 (224 views); M390829 (236 views); M390786 (225 views); M390836 (229 views); M390790 (268 views); M390810 (221 views); M390830 (234 views); M390806 (249 views); M390834 (216 views); M390825 (214 views); M390818 (260 views); M390816 (275 views); M390833 (209 views); M390813 (256 views); M390793 (345 views); M390832 (227 views); M390823 (230 views); M390831 (219 views); M390788 (279 views); M390792 (253 views); M390812 (269 views); M390799 (261 views); M390822 (245 views); M390814 (233 views); M390804 (214 views); M390824 (231 views); M390794 (250 views); M390821 (240 views); M390802 (225 views); M390827 (231 views); M390820 (250 views); M390811 (238 views); M390835 (241 views); M395328 (247 views); M390795 (243 views); M390796 (239 views); M390826 (223 views); M390789 (233 views); M390800 (251 views); M390808 (250 views); M390807 (262 views); M390798 (216 views); M390815 (239 views); M390791 (285 views); M390809 (241 views); M390803 (237 views); M390817 (252 views); M390805 (259 views); M390828 (213 views); M390801 (257 views);
    Taxon list1350
    Specimen list1087

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    type number of downloads Individual items downloaded (where applicable)
    Total downloads from project208
    Document downloads6Fucaia complete matrix (6 downloads);
    Project downloads178
    Matrix downloads24Fucaia (24 downloads);