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Herpetocetus morrowi (Cetacea: Mysticeti), a new species of diminutive baleen whale from the Upper Pliocene (Piacenzian) of California, USA, with observations on the evolution and relationships of the Cetotheriidae
Adli, J.J.; Deméré, T.A.; Boessenecker, R.W. (2014). Herpetocetus morrowi (Cetacea: Mysticeti), a new species of diminutive baleen whale from the Upper Pliocene (Piacenzian) of California, USA, with observations on the evolution and relationships of the Cetotheriidae. Zool. J. Linn. Soc. 170(2): 400-466. hdl.handle.net/10.1111/zoj.12108
In: Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. Academic Press: London. ISSN 0024-4082, more
Peer reviewed article  

Available in Authors 

Keywords
    Functional morphology; Palaeontology; Phylogeny; Systematics; Caperea Gray, 1864 [WoRMS]
Author keywords
    Caperea

Authors  Top 
  • Adli, J.J.
  • Deméré, T.A.
  • Boessenecker, R.W.

Abstract
    he extinct edentulous mysticete family Cetotheriidae historically has been viewed as a notoriously paraphyletic group, and only recently have rigorous studies been executed to rectify this issue. These problems do not necessarily just stem from lack of phylogenetic analyses, but are in part because of a general lack of complete specimens, poor descriptions of taxa, and long-lived taxonomic instability issues. The fossil mysticete genus Herpetocetus is a poster child of these problems as it is primarily only known from a few relatively incomplete and poorly described specimens. A new species of Herpetocetus from the upper Pliocene of California, Herpetocetus morrowi sp. nov., provides an archetypal model for the genus based on a multitude of well-preserved specimens. These specimens reveal a diminutive mysticete characterized by an elongate rostrum and roughly quadrate cranium. A mosaic of primitive and derived features preserved in this new species underscores its potential value in helping to resolve a number of taxonomic and phylogenetic problems. The occurrence of specimens assignable to juvenile through to mature adult individuals provides a basis for investigating ontogenetic changes. Functional analysis of the unusual craniomandibular anatomy of H.?morrowi suggests a limited degree of mandibular gape and an enhanced capacity for longitudinal rotation of the dentary, features that support a hypothesis of suction feeding convergent with that of living grey whales. A phylogenetic analysis provides support for recognition of a redefined and monophyletic Cetotheriidae and Herpetocetinae, and also serves as a basis for evaluating the recent proposal that the pygmy right whale (Caperea marginata) is a living cetothere. Morphological features of Herpetocetus morrowi, including features of the cranium and petrosal, suggest that a number of the purported synapomorphies supporting a Caperea-cetothere grouping are either symplesiomorphies, nonhomologous features, or are highly variable.

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