Cetotheriidae are a group of small baleen whales (Mysticeti) that evolved alongside modern rorquals. They once enjoyed a nearly global distribution, but then largely went extinct during the Plio-Pleistocene. After languishing as a wastebasket taxon for more than a century, the concept of Cetotheriidae is now well established. Nevertheless, the clade remains notable for its variability, and its scope remains in flux. In particular, the recent referral of several traditional cetotheriids to a new and seemingly unrelated family, Tranatocetidae, has created major phylogenetic uncertainty. Here, we describe a new species of Tranatocetus, the type of Tranatocetidae, from the Late Miocene of the Netherlands. Tranatocetus maregermanicum sp. nov. clarifies several of the traits previously ascribed to this genus, and reveals distinctive auditory and mandibular morphologies suggesting cetotheriid affinities. This interpretation is supported by a large phylogenetic analysis, which mingles cetotheriids and tranatocetids within a unified clade. As a result, we suggest that both groups should be reintegrated into the single family Cetotheriidae.
- Baleen whale
- Body size