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 views44259
    Project overview3637
    Matrix views2312Matrix landing page (2053 views); Fucaia (259 views);
    Documents list1593
    Media views31273Media search (4163 views); M390797 (543 views); M390787 (630 views); M390819 (500 views); M390829 (497 views); M390786 (502 views); M390836 (466 views); M390790 (577 views); M390810 (511 views); M390830 (459 views); M390806 (535 views); M390834 (464 views); M390825 (476 views); M390818 (538 views); M390816 (553 views); M390833 (469 views); M390813 (523 views); M390793 (635 views); M390832 (449 views); M390823 (499 views); M390831 (467 views); M390788 (574 views); M390792 (528 views); M390812 (537 views); M390799 (547 views); M390822 (583 views); M390814 (634 views); M390804 (489 views); M390824 (518 views); M390794 (528 views); M390821 (518 views); M390802 (521 views); M390827 (484 views); M390820 (531 views); M390811 (526 views); M390835 (462 views); M395328 (467 views); M390795 (518 views); M390796 (519 views); M390826 (501 views); M390789 (512 views); M390800 (547 views); M390808 (533 views); M390807 (543 views); M390798 (493 views); M390815 (512 views); M390791 (579 views); M390809 (531 views); M390803 (514 views); M390817 (531 views); M390805 (544 views); M390828 (455 views); M390801 (538 views);
    Taxon list2161
    Specimen list2234

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    type number of downloads Individual items downloaded (where applicable)
    Total downloads from project349
    Document downloads9Fucaia complete matrix (9 downloads);
    Project downloads311
    Matrix downloads29Fucaia (29 downloads);