[MARMAM] New paper on Pleistocene blue whale and mysticete body size evolution

Felix Marx felix.marx at monash.edu
Thu May 2 03:07:28 PDT 2019

Dear colleagues,

please find below the abstract and link to our recently published paper on
the discovery of a Pleistocene blue whale from Italy, and the implications
of this new fossil (and additional specimens from Peru) for the evolution
of mysticete gigantism.

Bianucci G, Marx F G, Collareta A, Stefano A D, Landini W, Morigi C, and
Varola A. 2019. Rise of the titans: baleen whales became giants earlier
than thought. Biol Lett, 15: 20190175.

Link: https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rsbl.2019.0175

Abstract: Baleen whales (Mysticeti) are major ecosystem engineers, thanks
to their enormous size and bulk filter feeding strategy. Their signature
gigantism is thought to be a relatively recent phenomenon, resulting from a
Plio-Pleistocene mode shift in their body size evolution. Here, we report
the largest whale fossil ever described: an Early Pleistocene (1.5–1.25 Ma)
blue whale from Italy with an estimated body length of up to 26 m.
Macroevolutionary modelling taking into account this specimen, as well as
additional material from the Miocene of Peru, reveals that the proposed
mode shift occurred either somewhat earlier, or perhaps not at all.
Large-sized mysticetes comparable to most extant species have existed since
at least the Late Miocene, suggesting a long-term impact on global marine

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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