Althoughcombinedmolecular andmorphological analyses point to a latemiddle Eocene (38–39million years ago) origin for the clade Neoceti (Odontoceti, echolocating toothed whales plus Mysticeti, baleen whales, and relatives), the oldest knownmysticete fossil dates from the latest Eocene (about 34 million years ago) of Antarctica. Considering that the latter is not the most stemward mysticete in recent phylogenies and that Oligocene toothed mysticetes display a broad morphological disparity most likely corresponding to contrasted ecological niches, the origin of mysticetes from a basilosaurid ancestor and its drivers are currently poorly understood. Based on an articulated cetacean skeleton from the early late Eocene (Priabonian, around 36.4million years ago) of the Pisco Basin, Peru, we describe a new archaic tooth-bearing mysticete, Mystacodon selenensis gen. et sp. nov. Being the geologically oldest neocete (crown group cetacean) and the earliest mysticete to branch off described so far, the new taxon is interpreted as morphologically intermediate between basilosaurids and later toothedmysticetes, providing thus crucial information about the anatomyof the skull, forelimb, and innominate at these critical initial stages of mysticete evolution. Major changes in the morphology of the oral apparatus (including tooth wear) and flipper compared to basilosaurids suggest that suction and possibly benthic feeding represented key, early ecological traits accompanying the emergence of modern filter-feeding baleen whales’ ancestors.
|Titolo:||Earliest Mysticete from the Late Eocene of Peru sheds new light on the origin of baleen whales|
|Data di pubblicazione:||2017|
|Appare nelle tipologie:||Articolo|