Article: A new basal balaenopterid whale from the Pliocene of northern Italy
A new basal balaenopterid genus and species, Archaebalaenoptera castriarquati, is described and compared with all the living and fossil members of the family Balaenopteridae and related fossil rorqual-like taxa. It was found in the Lower Pliocene of northern Italy, and is characterized by a supraoccipital with a transversely compressed anterior process, the zygomatic process of the squamosal diverging from the longitudinal axis of the skull, very long nasal bones, and subtle exposition of the parietal on the dorsal wall of the skull. It is primitive in having a maxilla with a long ascending process that is posteriorly unexpanded and round, and a dentary that is straight and not bowed outward, unlike that of living Balaenopteridae. In particular, the discovery of this new genus suggests that, among the early members of Balaenopteridae, the acquisition of the typical sutural pattern shown by maxilla, frontal, parietal and supraoccipital preceded the acquisition of the feeding-related traits that are characteristic of the family. The primitive morphology of the feeding-related structures of A. castriarquati (i.e. the straight dentary and the flat glenoid fossa of the squamosal) suggests that this whale was unable to undertake the intermittent ram feeding typical of Balaenopteridae as efficiently as living members of the family.