|Life reconstruction of three individuals of the extinct beaked whale Messapicetus gregarius preying upon a school of aged sardines Sardinops sp. (average body length 38.8 cm) in the upper part of the water column along the coast of nowadays Peru. The front individual is an adult male, whereas the last in the background is a female. |
Illustration by A. Gennari. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2015.1530
Although modern beaked whales (Ziphiidae) are known to be highly specialized toothed whales that predominantly feed at great depths upon benthic and benthopelagic prey, only limited palaeontological data document this major ecological shift. We report on a ziphiid–fish assemblage from the Late Miocene of Peru that we interpret as the first direct evidence of a predator–prey relationship between a ziphiid and epipelagic fish. Preserved in a dolomite concretion, a skeleton of the stem ziphiid Messapicetus gregarius was discovered together with numerous skeletons of a clupeiform fish closely related to the epipelagic extant Pacific sardine (Sardinops sagax). Based on the position of fish individuals along the head and chest regions of the ziphiid, the lack of digestion marks on fish remains and the homogeneous size of individuals, we propose that this assemblage results from the death of the whale (possibly via toxin poisoning) shortly after the capture of prey from a single school. Together with morphological data and the frequent discovery of fossil crown ziphiids in deep-sea deposits, this exceptional record supports the hypothesis that only more derived ziphiids were regular deep divers and that the extinction of epipelagic forms may coincide with the radiation of true dolphins.
KEYWORDS: feeding, fossil, Odontoceti, pacific sardine, Sardinops, Ziphiidae
Olivier Lambert, Alberto Collareta, Walter Landini, Klaas Post, Benjamin Ramassamy, Claudio Di Celma, Mario Urbina and Giovanni Bianucci. 2015. No Deep Diving: Evidence of Predation on Epipelagic Fish for A Stem Beaked Whale from the Late Miocene of Peru. Proc. R. Soc. B. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2015.1530
Fossilised Meal Illustrates Habitat Shift of Beaked Whales
Ancient whale fossilized with its last meal http://news.sciencemag.org/biology/2015/09/ancient-whale-fossilized-its-last-meal
Palaeontology. 53(5); 1077–1098. DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4983.2010.00995.x