Wednesday, 16 May 2018

This Huge, Ancient Whale Would Have Ripped You to Shreds

By Rafi Letzter, Staff Writer | May 10, 2018 04:40pm ET

This ancient, gummy whale is breaking all the rules.

The weird marine beast, called Llanocetus denticrenatus, lived about 34 million years ago. It was big. It was an early ancestor of modern humpbacks and blue whales. And (this is the maverick, rule-breaking bit for a whale of its type) it had thick gums studded with teeth.

Today, all the biggest whales are filter feeders, while only small whales of the odontocetl group (including belugas, sperm whales, and all dolphins and porpoises) still chew their food.

Modern large whales instead suck huge volumes of water through stringy bristles in their mouth called baleen, separating out tons of tiny organisms, which they digest en masse. This is such an essential feature of the group of massive whales, or Mysticetes, to which L. denticrenatus also belongs, that biologists call whales in this group baleen whales. [Whale Album: Giants of the Deep]

But L. denticrenatus, according to a paper published today (May 10) in the journal Current Biology, didn't have any baleen.

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