Monday, 4 September 2017

Ancient whales were predators not gentle giants

August 30, 2017

Museums Victoria and Monash University palaeontologists found ancient baleen whales had sharp predator teeth, debunking the theory that they were filter feeders like the modern day gentle giants

Ancient whales had extremely sharp predator teeth similar to lions, Australian scientists said Wednesday in a discovery they believe debunks theories the mammals used their teeth to filter feed like today's gentle giants.

There are two major groups of whales—toothed creatures such as killer whales, and baleen, which filter plankton and small fish from the ocean for food with special bristle-like structures in their mouths.

Using 3D scanners, Museums Victoria and Monash University palaeontologists made digital teeth models of fossil baleen whales and today's mammals from specimen collections around the world.

They found that teeth in ancient baleen whales—the ancestors of the Southern Right and Blue whale—were different to the present-day and were instead much sharper.

"These results are the first to show that ancient baleen whales had extremely sharp teeth with one function—cutting the flesh of their prey," Museums Victoria's senior curator of vertebrate palaeontology Erich Fitzgerald said.

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