Inside baleen: Exceptional microstructure preservation in a late Miocene whale skeleton from Peru

Anna Gioncada, Alberto Collareta, Karen Gariboldi, Olivier Lambert, Claudio Di Celma, Elena Bonaccorsi, Mario Urbina, Giovanni Bianucci

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34 Scopus citations

Abstract

Exceptionally preserved delicate baleen microstructures have been found in association with the skeleton of a late Miocene balaenopteroid whale in a dolomite concretion of the Pisco Formation, Peru. Microanalytical data (scanning electron microscopy, electron probe microanalysis, X-ray diffraction) on fossil baleen are provided and the results are discussed in terms of their taphonomic and paleoecological implications. Baleen fossilization modes at this site include molding of plates and tubules, and phosphatization. A rapid formation of the concretion was fundamental for fossilization. We suggest that the whale foundered in a soft sediment chemically favorable to rapid dolomite precipitation, allowing the preservation of delicate structures. Morphometric considerations on the baleen plates and bristles coupled with the reconstructed calcification of the latter permit speculation on the trophic preferences of this balaenopteroid whale: the densely spaced plates and the fine and calcified bristles provide evidence for feeding on small-sized plankton, as does the modern sei whale.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)839-842
Number of pages4
JournalGeology
Volume44
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2016

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    Gioncada, A., Collareta, A., Gariboldi, K., Lambert, O., Di Celma, C., Bonaccorsi, E., Urbina, M., & Bianucci, G. (2016). Inside baleen: Exceptional microstructure preservation in a late Miocene whale skeleton from Peru. Geology, 44(10), 839-842. https://doi.org/10.1130/G38216.1