Northern pygmy right whales highlight Quaternary marine mammal interchange

Cheng Hsiu Tsai, Alberto Collareta, Erich M.G. Fitzgerald, Felix G. Marx, Naoki Kohno, Mark Bosselaers, Gianni Insacco, Agatino Reitano, Rita Catanzariti, Masayuki Oishi, Giovanni Bianucci

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The pygmy right whale, Caperea marginata, is the most enigmatic living whale. Little is known about its ecology and behaviour, but unusual specialisations of visual pigments [1], mitochondrial tRNAs [2], and postcranial anatomy [3] suggest a lifestyle different from that of other extant whales. Geographically, Caperea represents the only major baleen whale lineage entirely restricted to the Southern Ocean. Caperea-like fossils, the oldest of which date to the Late Miocene, are exceedingly rare and likewise limited to the Southern Hemisphere [4], despite a more substantial history of fossil sampling north of the equator. Two new Pleistocene fossils now provide unexpected evidence of a brief and relatively recent period in geological history when Caperea occurred in the Northern Hemisphere (Figure 1A,B). During the Pleistocene, glacial cooling allowed marine mammals to cross the tropics and disperse across both hemispheres, Here, Tsai et al. report fossil findings suggesting that pygmy right whales, Caperea marginata, occurred in the Northern Hemisphere during this era.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)R1058-R1059
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number19
Publication statusPublished - 9 Oct 2017

Cite this

Tsai, C. H., Collareta, A., Fitzgerald, E. M. G., Marx, F. G., Kohno, N., Bosselaers, M., Insacco, G., Reitano, A., Catanzariti, R., Oishi, M., & Bianucci, G. (2017). Northern pygmy right whales highlight Quaternary marine mammal interchange. Current Biology, 27(19), R1058-R1059.