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Curr Biol. 2017 Jul 10;27(13):2036-2042.e2. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.06.003. Epub 2017 Jun 29.

The Origin of Filter Feeding in Whales.

Author information

1
Department of Anatomy, New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine, Northern Boulevard, Old Westbury, NY 11568, USA; Department of Paleobiology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, PO Box 37012, Washington, DC 20013, USA. Electronic address: jgeisler@nyit.edu.
2
Department of Geology and Environmental Geosciences, Natural History Museum, College of Charleston, 66 George Street, Charleston, SC 29424, USA.
3
Department of Anatomy, New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine, Northern Boulevard, Old Westbury, NY 11568, USA; Department of Paleobiology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, PO Box 37012, Washington, DC 20013, USA.

Abstract

As the largest known vertebrates of all time, mysticetes depend on keratinous sieves called baleen to capture enough small prey to sustain their enormous size [1]. The origins of baleen are controversial: one hypothesis suggests that teeth were lost during a suction-feeding stage of mysticete evolution and that baleen evolved thereafter [2-4], whereas another suggests that baleen evolved before teeth were lost [5]. Here we report a new species of toothed mysticete, Coronodon havensteini, from the Oligocene of South Carolina that is transitional between raptorial archaeocete whales and modern mysticetes. Although the morphology and wear on its anterior teeth indicate that it captured large prey, its broad, imbricated, multi-cusped lower molars frame narrow slots that were likely used for filter feeding. Coronodon havensteini is a basal, if not the most basal, mysticete, and our analysis suggests that it is representative of an initial stage of mysticete evolution in which teeth were functional analogs to baleen. In later lineages, the diastema between teeth increased-in some cases, markedly so [6]-and may mark a stage at which the balance of the oral fissure shifted from mostly teeth to mostly baleen. When placed in a phylogenetic context, our new taxon indicates that filter feeding was preceded by raptorial feeding and that suction feeding evolved separately within a clade removed from modern baleen whales.

KEYWORDS:

Mysticeti; South Carolina; baleen; filter feeding; oligocene; toothed mysticete

PMID:
28669761
DOI:
10.1016/j.cub.2017.06.003
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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