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.

Read the article »

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

Download Project SDD File
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
Currently Viewing:
MorphoBank Project 2238

    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 views25921
    Project overview2668
    Matrix views1715Matrix landing page (1525 views); Fucaia (190 views);
    Documents list1132
    Media views17079Media search (2524 views); M390797 (299 views); M390787 (343 views); M390819 (259 views); M390829 (263 views); M390786 (264 views); M390836 (258 views); M390790 (316 views); M390810 (260 views); M390830 (260 views); M390806 (285 views); M390834 (246 views); M390825 (253 views); M390818 (295 views); M390816 (309 views); M390833 (239 views); M390813 (289 views); M390793 (386 views); M390832 (252 views); M390823 (265 views); M390831 (249 views); M390788 (324 views); M390792 (290 views); M390812 (303 views); M390799 (296 views); M390822 (285 views); M390814 (271 views); M390804 (254 views); M390824 (268 views); M390794 (283 views); M390821 (276 views); M390802 (265 views); M390827 (260 views); M390820 (284 views); M390811 (275 views); M390835 (270 views); M395328 (276 views); M390795 (280 views); M390796 (274 views); M390826 (253 views); M390789 (271 views); M390800 (286 views); M390808 (290 views); M390807 (303 views); M390798 (254 views); M390815 (275 views); M390791 (321 views); M390809 (280 views); M390803 (275 views); M390817 (289 views); M390805 (302 views); M390828 (239 views); M390801 (293 views);
    Taxon list1493
    Specimen list1211

    Project downloads

    type number of downloads Individual items downloaded (where applicable)
    Total downloads from project234
    Document downloads6Fucaia complete matrix (6 downloads);
    Project downloads204
    Matrix downloads24Fucaia (24 downloads);