Project 2238: F. G. Marx, C.-H. 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. 2:150476.
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: 40 MB

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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
Total character states with media with labels:0
Total unordered/ordered characters:247/25
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MorphoBank Project 2238


    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 views19540
    Project overview2189
    Matrix views1371Matrix landing page (1201 views); Fucaia (170 views);
    Documents list951
    Media views12514Media search (1947 views); M390797 (212 views); M390787 (220 views); M390819 (179 views); M390829 (204 views); M390786 (186 views); M390836 (198 views); M390790 (211 views); M390810 (181 views); M390830 (202 views); M390806 (208 views); M390834 (172 views); M390825 (178 views); M390818 (213 views); M390816 (233 views); M390833 (170 views); M390813 (208 views); M390793 (302 views); M390832 (198 views); M390823 (188 views); M390831 (188 views); M390788 (227 views); M390792 (213 views); M390812 (221 views); M390799 (220 views); M390822 (211 views); M390814 (198 views); M390804 (176 views); M390824 (194 views); M390794 (207 views); M390821 (192 views); M390802 (185 views); M390827 (198 views); M390820 (211 views); M390811 (195 views); M390835 (212 views); M395328 (217 views); M390795 (206 views); M390796 (199 views); M390826 (195 views); M390789 (184 views); M390800 (216 views); M390808 (208 views); M390807 (208 views); M390798 (177 views); M390815 (197 views); M390791 (250 views); M390809 (189 views); M390803 (193 views); M390817 (206 views); M390805 (223 views); M390828 (172 views); M390801 (216 views);
    Taxon list1082
    Specimen list942

    Project downloads

    type number of downloads Individual items downloaded (where applicable)
    Total downloads from project181
    Document downloads6Fucaia complete matrix (6 downloads);
    Project downloads151
    Matrix downloads24Fucaia (24 downloads);