A new archaic baleen whale Toipahautea waitaki (early Late Oligocene, New Zealand) and the origins of crown Mysticeti

Royal Society Open Science
Cheng-Hsiu Tsai, R Fordyce


A new genus and species of extinct baleen whale †Toipahautea waitaki (Late Oligocene, New Zealand) is based on a skull and associated bones, from the lower Kokoamu Greensand, about 27.5 Ma (local upper Whaingaroan Stage, early Chattian). The upper jaw includes a thin, elongate and apparently toothless maxilla, with evidence of arterial supply for baleen. Open sutures with the premaxilla suggest a flexible (kinetic) upper jaw. The blowhole is well forward. The mandible is bowed laterally and slightly dorsally; unlike the Eomysticetidae, there are no mandibular alveoli, and the coronoid process is tapered and curved laterally. Jaw structure is consistent with baleen-assisted gulp-feeding. The age of early Chattian makes †Toipahautea a very early, if not the oldest named, toothless and baleen-bearing mysticete, suggesting that the full transition from toothed to baleen-bearing probably occurred in the Early Oligocene. Late Oligocene mysticetes vary considerably in jaw form and kinesis, tooth form and function, and development of baleen, implying a wide range of raptorial, suctorial and filter-feeding behaviour. More study may elucidate the function of jaws, teeth and baleen in terms of opportunist/generalist feeding, as in modern ...Continue Reading


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