[MARMAM] Oligocene mysticetes from Australasia and the Early Miocene fossil gap

Felix Marx felix.marx at monash.edu
Tue Apr 30 08:08:26 PDT 2019

Dear colleagues,

please find below the abstract and link to our recently published, open
access paper on a quantitative comparison of the Oligocene baleen whale
assemblages from Australasia, and a discussion of the global Early Miocene
gap in the mysticete fossil record.

Marx F G, Fitzgerald E M G, and Fordyce R E. 2019. Like phoenix from the
ashes: how modern baleen whales arose from a fossil ‘dark age’. Acta
Palaeontol Pol, 64: published online.

Link: https://www.app.pan.pl/article/item/app005752018.html

Abstract: The evolution of baleen whales (Mysticeti), the largest animals
on Earth, was punctuated by a pivotal turnover event. Following their
emergence around 36 million years (Ma), mysticetes diversified into a
disparate range of toothed and toothless species until 23 Ma, but then
nearly vanished from the global fossil record for the next five million
years. Following this early Miocene “dark age”, toothless mysticetes
spectacularly reappeared around 18–17 Ma, whereas toothed mysticetes had
gone entirely extinct. Here, we suggest that this turnover event reflects a
change in mysticete habitat occupancy. Using the well-sampled record of
Australasia as a case study, we show that Oligocene pre-“dark age”
mysticetes formed distinct coastal and offshore assemblages, dominated by
small (2–4 m), ecologically disparate toothed species, and larger (5–6 m)
toothless filter feeders, respectively. Environmental change around the
Oligocene–Miocene boundary led to the decline of the endemic coastal
assemblages, leaving nearshore deposits virtually devoid of mysticetes.
Filter feeders persisted offshore and subsequently re-invaded coastal
habitats during the mid-Miocene Climatic Optimum, thus establishing the
modern, cosmopolitan mysticete fauna.
Kind regards,

Felix Marx

*Felix G. Marx* PhD | FNRS Postdoctoral Fellow

*University of Liège, Belgium
*Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, Brussels, Belgium
*Monash University, Melbourne, Australia
*Museums Victoria, Melbourne, Australia

Address: Institut royal des Sciences naturelles de Belgique
D.O. Terre et Histoire de la Vie, Evolution de la Paléobiosphère
29 rue Vautier, 1000 Brussels, Belgium
Phone: +32 (0)488 897314

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