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The Earliest Known Member of the Rorqual: Gray Whale Clade (Mammalia, Cetacea)
Alton C. Dooley, Jr., Nicholas C. Fraser and Zhe-Xi Luo
Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology
Vol. 24, No. 2 (Jul. 11, 2004), pp. 453-463
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4524731
Page Count: 11
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Eobalaenoptera harrisoni, gen. et sp. nov., is described from a partial skeleton collected from the middle Miocene Calvert Formation of Virginia. Characteristics of this taxon, particularly of the petrosal, indicate that the new whale is a member of the clade that includes the Balaenopteridae (rorquals) and Eschrichtidae (gray whales) to the exclusion of "cetotheres" and the Balaenidae (right whales). Some of the probable synapomorphies of this clade include an elongate pars cochlearis, a tubular internal auditory meatus, the greater petrosal nerve foramen on the tympanic side of the petrosal, the stylomastoid fossa extending onto the posterior process of the petrosal, no medial groove on the pars cochlearis, four digits on each forelimb, depressed supraorbital processes, and ascending processes of maxillae extending onto the vertex. The approximate 14-million-year age of the specimen makes it the oldest known member of the clade by some 3 to 5 million years, and extends the fossil record of this clade closer to the divergence time estimated by some recent molecular studies.
Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology © 2004 The Society of Vertebrate Paleontology