Ancient blue whale was a shark killer
Ancestor of baleen whales terrorized the seas
August 21, 2006
A 25-million-year-old whale fossil from southeastern Australia suggests a curious origin for baleen whales.
Presented at the at the Melbourne Museum last week, the fossil shows that earliest baleen whales were small, toothed and highly predatory creatures with enormous eyes — virtually the opposite of the baleen whales we know today. These, like the blue whale and the humpback are gentle, toothless giants that feed on krill and other tiny organism.
Artist’s impression of Janjucetus ‘in the flesh’, in the seas off southeast Australia 25 million years ago. The total length of Janjucetus is estimated at about 3-3.5 m. Source: Brian Choo, Museum Victoria.
Erich Fitzgerald, the researcher who studied the Janjucetus hunderi fossil, said that the discovery could dramatically change views on the evolution of cetaceans.
“We have to re-assess baleen whales as gentle giants, as passive grazers of krill and plankton,” he said. “This animal shows that some baleen whales were in fact pretty deadly predators. It was an animal built for power and crippling attacks on its prey.”
Fitzgerald’s findings were published last week in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, a publication of The Royal Society in Britain. Fitzgerald is a researcher at Monash University.
This article is based on a news release from Monash University.
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