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
    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 views22197
    Project overview2399
    Matrix views1528Matrix landing page (1347 views); Fucaia (181 views);
    Documents list1032
    Media views14363Media search (2173 views); M390797 (249 views); M390787 (276 views); M390819 (214 views); M390829 (228 views); M390786 (217 views); M390836 (222 views); M390790 (253 views); M390810 (212 views); M390830 (228 views); M390806 (240 views); M390834 (202 views); M390825 (205 views); M390818 (249 views); M390816 (266 views); M390833 (198 views); M390813 (245 views); M390793 (334 views); M390832 (220 views); M390823 (221 views); M390831 (212 views); M390788 (266 views); M390792 (244 views); M390812 (259 views); M390799 (252 views); M390822 (237 views); M390814 (224 views); M390804 (205 views); M390824 (222 views); M390794 (241 views); M390821 (228 views); M390802 (214 views); M390827 (224 views); M390820 (241 views); M390811 (226 views); M390835 (234 views); M395328 (240 views); M390795 (234 views); M390796 (231 views); M390826 (215 views); M390789 (221 views); M390800 (242 views); M390808 (241 views); M390807 (243 views); M390798 (208 views); M390815 (231 views); M390791 (276 views); M390809 (227 views); M390803 (228 views); M390817 (243 views); M390805 (249 views); M390828 (205 views); M390801 (248 views);
    Taxon list1272
    Specimen list1049

    Project downloads

    type number of downloads Individual items downloaded (where applicable)
    Total downloads from project201
    Document downloads6Fucaia complete matrix (6 downloads);
    Project downloads171
    Matrix downloads24Fucaia (24 downloads);