Eocene Antarctica: a window into the earliest history of modern whales

Mónica R. Buono, Robert Ewan Fordyce, Felix Marx, Marta S. Fernández, Marcelo Reguero

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


The Eocene–Oligocene Southern Ocean is thought to have played a major role in cetacean evolution. Yet, fossils from its heart—Antarctica—are rare, and come almost exclusively from the Eocene La Meseta and Submeseta formations of Marambio (Seymour) Island. Here, we provide a summary and update of this crucial fossil assemblage, and discuss its relevance in the broader context of cetacean evolution. To date, Eocene specimens from Antarctica include basilosaurids, a group of archaic stem cetaceans that had already fully adapted to life in water; and the archaic toothed mysticete Llanocetus, the second oldest crown cetacean on record (ca. 34 Ma). This Eocene co-occurrence of stem and crown cetaceans is highly unusual, and otherwise only observed in Peru. Though related, at least some of the Antarctic species appear to be different from, and notably larger than their Peruvian counterparts, suggesting an early differentiation of the high latitude cetacean fauna
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)293-302
Number of pages10
JournalAdvances in Polar Science
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Marambio (Seymour) Island
  • Mysticeti
  • evolution
  • Basilosauridae

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