Shark versus whale, 4 million years ago

From New Scientist:

Shark versus whale, 4 million years BC

* 13:00 05 May 2009 by Ewen Callaway

Palaeontologists have discovered a fossilised great white shark tooth lodged in a four-million-year-old whale mandible bone – a first.

A team led by Dana Ehret, of the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville, unearthed the unique specimen in southern Peru’s Pisco Formation, which during the Pliocene, the period around 2 to 5 million years ago, was an ocean.

But did the shark kill the whale, or merely scavenge its corpse? Find out in our gallery

Journal reference: PALAIOS, DOI: 10.2110/palo.2008.p08-077r

According to the Palaios article, the shark is a Carcharodon sp. (same genus, but not necessarily the same species, as the present great white shark). The whale is a mysticete whale.

Whale Evolution with Pictures: here.

Here, I report a new toothed mysticete from the Late Oligocene of Australia that is more archaic than any previously described: here.

Fossil Shark And Seal Bone Bed Helps Reconstruct Life Along California’s Ancient Coastline: here.

Pliocene shark fossils in the Netherlands: here.

2 thoughts on “Shark versus whale, 4 million years ago

  1. South Bay Scientists Close To Recovering Ancient Whale Fossil

    Posted: 6:10 pm PDT June 8, 2009Updated: 8:48 pm PDT June 8, 2009

    SANTA CRUZ COUNTY — Paleontologists at a scientific dig in Santa Cruz County said they have reached a critical juncture in the project where they hope to recover bones from a whale that are five million years old.

    Scientists want to keep the public away from the site as they continue to ensure the safety of the skeleton, making the dig going at the Santa Cruz County beach something of a noisy secret.

    Some locals know scientists are digging up what they hope will be remains of an ancient whale. So far, paleontologists have been able to preserve both the secret location and the five million year old bones.

    Amateur paleontologist Karl Heiman saw the bones protruding from a cliff about five months ago.

    “I was in awe because I knew a veterbrae with ribs is a pretty rare find,” said Heiman

    It didn’t take Heiman long to realize the project required professionals. He informed Santa Cruz County and, ultimately, PaleoResources, a group of scientific consultants in Auburn.

    The crew took months to dig through the rock and sandstone to get underneath the whale fossil in order to encase the fossil in plaster for protection.

    “We think we might have found a jawbone, so it might be a Baleen whale,” said PaleoResources Field Supervisor David Maloney. “If it is, it might be a brand new species or a second example of a previously described species. They’re not common.”

    Maloney admitted that without the skull, it will be more difficult to determine the species. Still, the fossil will make a fascinating display for locals as a 3-D snapshot of ocean life from five million years ago.

    Copyright 2009 by


  2. Australian Fossil Unlocks Secrets To The Origin Of Whales; ‘A Bottom-feeding Mud-sucker’ News Service

    December 22, 2009 22:50 EST

    Fossil skull of the whale Mammalodon colliveri. Length of skull about 45 cm. Credit: Rodney Start / Source: Museum Victoria

    VICTORIA, Australia — Museum Victoria palaeobiologist Dr Erich Fitzgerald has made new groundbreaking discoveries into the origin of baleen whales
    , based on a 25 million year old fossil found near Torquay in Victoria.

    Dr Fitzgerald’s study, which is published in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, is centred on Mammalodon colliveri, a primitive toothed baleen whale, one of a group of whales that includes the largest animal ever to have lived, the blue whale. Although Mammalodon was discovered in 1932 and named in 1939, it has remained relatively unknown until now.

    “Through study of Mammalodon, I hypothesise that it was a bottom-feeding mud-sucker that may have used its tongue and short, blunt snout to suck small prey from sand and mud on the seafloor. This indicates early and varied experimentation in the evolution of baleen whales”, explained Dr Fitzgerald.

    The research conducted by Dr Fitzgerald supports Charles Darwin’s speculation in The Origin of Species, that some of the earliest baleen whales may have been suction feeders, and that their mud grubbing served as a precursor to the filter feeding of today’s giants of the deep.

    Although Mammalodon had a total body length of about 3 metres, it was a bizarre early offshoot from the lineage leading to the 30 metre long blue whale. The new research shows that Mammalodon is a dwarf, having evolved into a relatively tiny form from larger ancestors.

    Mammalodon belongs to the same family as Janjucetus hunderi, fossils of which were also found in 25 million year old Oligocene rocks near Torquay in Victoria. This family is unique to south east Australia, their fossils only being discovered in Victoria. “Clearly the seas off southern Australia were a cradle for the evolution of a variety of tiny, weird whales that seem to have lived nowhere else”, said Dr Fitzgerald.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.