Abstract

Exceptionally preserved delicate baleen microstructures have been found in association with the skeleton of a late Miocene balaenopteroid whale in a dolomite concretion of the Pisco Formation, Peru. Microanalytical data (scanning electron microscopy, electron probe microanalysis, X-ray diffraction) on fossil baleen are provided and the results are discussed in terms of their taphonomic and paleoecological implications. Baleen fossilization modes at this site include molding of plates and tubules, and phosphatization. A rapid formation of the concretion was fundamental for fossilization. We suggest that the whale foundered in a soft sediment chemically favorable to rapid dolomite precipitation, allowing the preservation of delicate structures. Morphometric considerations on the baleen plates and bristles coupled with the reconstructed calcification of the latter permit speculation on the trophic preferences of this balaenopteroid whale: the densely spaced plates and the fine and calcified bristles provide evidence for feeding on small-sized plankton, as does the modern sei whale.

You do not currently have access to this article.