Because baleen rarely fossilises, extremely little is known about its evolution, structure and function outside the living families. Here we describe, for the first time, the exceptionally preserved baleen apparatus of an entirely extinct mysticete morphotype: the Late Miocene cetotheriid, Piscobalaena nana, from the Pisco Formation of Peru. The baleen plates of P. nana are closely spaced and built around relatively dense, fine tubules, as in the enigmatic pygmy right whale, Caperea marginata. Phosphatisation of the intertubular horn, but not the tubules themselves, suggests in vivo intertubular calcification. The size of the rack matches the distribution of nutrient foramina on the palate, and implies the presence of an unusually large subrostral gap. Overall, the baleen morphology of Piscobalaena likely reflects the interacting effects of size, function and phylogeny, and reveals a previously unknown degree of complexity in modern mysticete feeding evolution.
- baleen whale
- filter feeding
- suction feeding
Marx, F. G., Collareta, A., Gioncada, A., Post, K., Lambert, O., Bonaccorsi, E., Urbina, M., & Bianucci, G. (2017). How whales used to filter: exceptionally preserved baleen in a Miocene cetotheriid. Journal of Anatomy, 231(2), 212-220. https://doi.org/10.1111/joa.12622