Giovanni Bianucci

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The modern giant sperm whale Physeter macrocephalus, one of the largest known predators, preys upon cephalopods at great depths. Lacking a functional upper dentition, it relies on suction for catching its prey; in contrast, several smaller Miocene sperm whales (Physeteroidea) have been interpreted as raptorial (versus suction) feeders, analogous to the(More)
Although combined molecular and morphological analyses point to a late middle Eocene (38-39 million years ago) origin for the clade Neoceti (Odontoceti, echolocating toothed whales plus Mysticeti, baleen whales, and relatives), the oldest known mysticete fossil dates from the latest Eocene (about 34 million years ago) of Antarctica [1, 2]. Considering that(More)
Instead of teeth, modern mysticetes bear hair-fringed keratinous baleen plates that permit various bulk-filtering predation techniques (from subsurface skimming to lateral benthic suction and engulfment) devoted to various target prey (from small invertebrates to schooling fish). Current knowledge about the feeding ecology of extant cetaceans is revealed by(More)
Several extinct sperm whales (stem Physeteroidea) were recently proposed to differ markedly in their feeding ecology from the suction-feeding modern sperm whales Kogia and Physeter. Based on cranial, mandibular, and dental morphology, these Miocene forms were tentatively identified as macroraptorial feeders, able to consume proportionally large prey using(More)
Although modern beaked whales (Ziphiidae) are known to be highly specialized toothed whales that predominantly feed at great depths upon benthic and benthopelagic prey, only limited palaeontological data document this major ecological shift. We report on a ziphiid-fish assemblage from the Late Miocene of Peru that we interpret as the first direct evidence(More)
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(More)
Baleen is a comb-like structure that enables mysticete whales to bulk feed on vast quantities of small prey, and ultimately allowed them to become the largest animals on Earth. Because baleen rarely fossilises, extremely little is known about its evolution, structure and function outside the living families. Here we describe, for the first time, the(More)