An ancient "dwarf" whale appears to have fed by sucking small animals out of the seafloor mud with its short snout and tongue, experts say.
Researchers say the 25 million-year-old fossil is related to today's blue whales - the largest animals on Earth.
The ancient animal's mud slurping may have been a precursor to the filter feeding seen in modern baleen whales.
These whales strain huge quantities of tiny marine animals through specialised "combs" which take the place of teeth.
The research is published in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society.
The fossilised remains of the primitive baleen whale Mammalodon colliveri was discovered near Torquay, in Victoria, Australia.
This animal still had teeth; it had not yet evolved the baleen plates - used for filter-feeding - which characterise present-day baleen whales.
Although Mammalodon was discovered in 1932 and named in 1939, it has not been widely studied, according to Museum Victoria, which holds specimens of this group.
The study's author, Dr Erich Fitzgerald from Museum Victoria, said that his study of the fossil led him to the conclusion that Mammalodon was a bottom-feeding mud-sucker.
The idea would support Charles Darwin's observation about whale evolution in his seminal book On the Origin of Species.
In it, Darwin speculated that some of the earliest baleen whales may have been suction feeders - and that this served as a precursor to the filter feeding of today's giants of the deep.
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