[MARMAM] A New Miocene Family, Tranatocetidae, Brings Perspective on Baleen Whale Evolution

Pavel Gol'din pavelgoldin412 at gmail.com
Thu Sep 3 14:43:59 PDT 2015

Dear colleagues,

We are happy to announce the following open access paper on the evolution
of baleen whales:

Gol’din P, Steeman ME (2015) From Problem Taxa to Problem Solver: A New
Miocene Family, Tranatocetidae, Brings Perspective on Baleen Whale
Evolution. PLoS ONE 10(9): e0135500. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0135500

Miocene baleen whales were highly diverse and included tens of genera.
However, their taxonomy and phylogeny, as well as relationships with living
whales, are still a subject of controversy. Here, “Mesocetus” argillarius,
a poorly known specimen from Denmark, is redescribed with a focus on the
cranial anatomy. It was found to represent not only a new genus,
Tranatocetus gen. nov., but also a new family; Tranatocetidae. The whales
of this family have the rostral bones either overriding or dividing the
frontals; the rostral bones are contacting the parietals and nasals
dividing the maxillae on the vertex; the occipital shield is dorsoventrally
bent. The tympanic bulla is particularly characteristic of this family
featuring a short, narrow anterior portion with a rounded or squared
anterior end and a wider and higher posterior portion that is swollen in
the posteroventral area. A phylogenetic analysis including 51 taxa supports
a monophyletic group comprising most Neogene and modern whales, with
Tranatocetidae being possibly closer related to Balaenopteridae (rorquals)
than to Cetotheriidae. Tranatocetidae exhibit a charahteristic bulla shape.
In fact, all Neogene and modern mysticete families examined have a unique
shape of the tympanic bulla that is diagnostic at family-level. Inclusion
of problematic taxa like Tranatocetus argillarius in phylogenies brings new
understanding of the distribution and diagnostic value of character traits.
This underlines the need for re-examination of earlier described specimens
in the light of the wealth of new information published in later years.

The paper can be read and downloaded at:


Pavel Gol'din
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