A potential breeding site of a Miocene era baleen whale

August 22, 2017, PeerJ
Open suture between the supraoccipital and exoccipital in (A) a fossil baleen whale (Parietobalaena yamaokai) and (B) a fetal specimen of blue whale, Balaenoptera musculus. Credit: Cheng-Hsiu Tsai.

Baleen whales are amongst the largest animals to have ever lived and yet very little is known about their breeding habits. One researcher's second look at previously found baleen whale fossils from Japan provides new evidence of a now long-gone breeding ground of the extinct baleen whale Parietobalaena yamaokai dating back over 15 million years.

The research published in the open-access journal PeerJ elaborates on the evidence of the presence of a very young individual of an extinct baleen whale, along with the occurrence of several fossil specimens of the same whale . This study claims to have discovered a very uncommon case—a breeding ground for a long extinct large whale.

Researcher Cheng-Hsiu Tsai noticed the open suture in the skull of one fossil specimen, which indicates the preservation of a very young whale—under six months old, perhaps even close to a new-born calf. The investigated were originally found in the 20th century and are currently held at the Hiwa Museum for Natural History, Shobara, Hiroshima, Japan.

Identifying breeding grounds of living species of are incredibly rare, let alone for extinct Miocene species. For example, scientists are not certain where the endangered western gray whales reproduce, in turn leading to no concrete strategies to recover this critically endangered population of around 100 individuals.

The discovery of an ancient paleo-breeding site, which dates back to 15 million years ago, could provide new insights into the future of baleen whale survival. In a rapidly changing world, locating breeding sites and understanding why a breeding site disappeared may subsequently lead to information on how best to respond in order to conserve these living endangered populations.

Life restoration of a mother-calf pair of Parietobalaena yamaokai. Credit: Nobumichi Tamura

Explore further: Ancient South Carolina whale yields secrets to filter feeding's origins

More information: Cheng-Hsiu Tsai, A Miocene breeding ground of an extinct baleen whale (Cetacea: Mysticeti), PeerJ (2017). DOI: 10.7717/peerj.3711

Related Stories

Whales in the desert

August 24, 2016

In Cerro Colorado, located in the Ica Desert of Peru, sedimentary sequences dating back nine million years have been found to host the fossil skeletons of hundreds of marine vertebrates.

Recommended for you

Research offers new insights into malaria parasite

May 18, 2018

A team of researchers led by a University of California, Riverside, scientist has found that various stages of the development of human malaria parasites, including stages involved in malaria transmission, are linked to epigenetic ...

What we've learned about the nucleolus since you left school

May 17, 2018

The size of a cell's nucleolus may reveal how long that cell, or even the organism that cell belongs to, will live. Over the past few years, researchers have been piecing together an unexpected link between aging and an organelle ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.