Scientists Discover Ancient Members of Whale Family

National Geographic recently announced that scientists have discovered four ancient members of the baleen whale family. Eleven species, including the four new species, were discovered at a construction site in California.

An intriguing part of the discovery is that the mysterious baleen whale ancestors had teeth! It is an exciting discovery for scientists, as the 'toothy' ancestors are helping create an interesting link in the evolution of baleen whales.

Scientists discover ancient species of whale

Photo Credit: National Geographic

Baleen Whales of today do not have teeth, instead they are equipped with baleen plates, which help the whales filter food from sea water. This difference distinguishes them from toothed whales or Odontoceti.

The fossils were excavated over a period of 5 to 10 years as it is a very delicate operation to separate the fossils from the rocks. After researching the finds, scientists revealed that the ancient whales swam our oceans roughly 17 million to 19 millions years ago. Meredith Rivin, a paleontologist at the Cooper Archaelogical and Paleontological Center in Fullerton, California, reported that this is a major discovery as it was previously believed this group of whales had become extinct five million years previous to that.

At Whales in Paradise, we have the great pleasure of viewing hundreds of Humpbacks each year off the Gold Coast. Humpback Whales belong to the Baleen Family. So we are very excited to hear new information about the ancestors of our favourite whales!

Whale Watching - Whales in Paradise

Humpbacks with Whales in Paradise

Over 100 bones and 30 whale skulls were excarvated, were discovered at the site with the largest whale found measuring over nine meters! The large whale has been nicknames 'Willy' and scientists joked they were very glad to have finally 'freed willy' from the surrounding rocks after such a delicate excavation.

For more information on this incredible discovery, please visit National GeographicLive Science.