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
    (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 views33019
    Project overview3028
    Matrix views1946Matrix landing page (1732 views); Fucaia (214 views);
    Documents list1319
    Media views22638Media search (3159 views); M390797 (394 views); M390787 (488 views); M390819 (352 views); M390829 (355 views); M390786 (354 views); M390836 (344 views); M390790 (418 views); M390810 (354 views); M390830 (342 views); M390806 (380 views); M390834 (326 views); M390825 (351 views); M390818 (390 views); M390816 (408 views); M390833 (318 views); M390813 (384 views); M390793 (479 views); M390832 (332 views); M390823 (354 views); M390831 (329 views); M390788 (423 views); M390792 (382 views); M390812 (394 views); M390799 (387 views); M390822 (421 views); M390814 (420 views); M390804 (346 views); M390824 (370 views); M390794 (376 views); M390821 (369 views); M390802 (360 views); M390827 (338 views); M390820 (378 views); M390811 (375 views); M390835 (346 views); M395328 (352 views); M390795 (370 views); M390796 (368 views); M390826 (349 views); M390789 (362 views); M390800 (383 views); M390808 (386 views); M390807 (397 views); M390798 (356 views); M390815 (369 views); M390791 (418 views); M390809 (380 views); M390803 (368 views); M390817 (385 views); M390805 (394 views); M390828 (318 views); M390801 (387 views);
    Taxon list1756
    Specimen list1569

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    type number of downloads Individual items downloaded (where applicable)
    Total downloads from project308
    Document downloads9Fucaia complete matrix (9 downloads);
    Project downloads274
    Matrix downloads25Fucaia (25 downloads);