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Ancient whale sucked mud for food

Ancient whale sucked mud for food

Postby Cetacea » 12/26/09

Ancient whale sucked mud for food

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.

Splinter group

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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Re: Ancient whale sucked mud for food

Postby David » 12/26/09

I'm really surprised they didn't mention today's gray whales which feed primarily by:

"To feed, the whale dives to the sea floor, turns on its side (usually to the right), and swims forward along the bottom of the sea, forcing its head through the top layer of sediment along the sea floor. It is there that the whale scoops up its invertebrate prey as well as gravel and mud, leaving a trail behind. The whale then surfaces, straining the sediment through the baleen, which permits only the food to remain in the mouth to be swallowed."

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