Examination of an ancient fossil has given scientists another insight into the evolution of baleen whales such as humpback or blue whales.
The fossil, named Coronodon havensteini, was found near the Wando River in South Carolina and lived around 30 million years ago. One of the great mysteries of whale evolution is how baleen whales evolve from originally having teeth and at what point did these whales lose their teeth? This whale has a wide snout and short jaw bones that are characteristics of a baleen whale. However, what is intriguing is that it had teeth which appear to have been used in a sieve-like way to catch small prey and filter out the water. But, at the same time, the whale would also have been able to take larger prey using the teeth in a more conventional way.
The latest discovery follows that of possibly the oldest relative of baleen whales found in Peru that lived 36 million years ago which also showed characteristics of having teeth but using suction to catch food.
The Origin of Filter Feeding in Whales
Jonathan H. Geisler, Robert W. Boessenecker, Mace Brown, Brian L. Beatty