Australian scientists have published a new study which disputes Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution for whales and argues they were once top tier predators.
Museum of Victoria scientists developed their study after creating a 3D model of a prehistoric tooth which was dug out of the rocks near Torquay on Victoria’s southern coastline in 2016.
Their analysis found the tooth more closely resembles the fangs of modern predators like lions, tigers and bears rather than the baleen filter-feeding system we see in the majority of today’s whales.
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The tooth belonged to Janjucetus, which is part of the ancestral pool of species that led to modern baleen whales, such as blue whales, humpbacks and right whales.
The finding challenges the theory developed by Charles Darwin that the teeth of prehistoric whales were sieve-shaped to allow water to pass through them.
In the same Australian study, published today, scientists discovered around the time whales developed baleen they grew in size.
About 30 million years ago whales started to develop baleen and began to evolve into the gigantic creatures we now know.
Before developing the filter feeding system whales such as the Janjucetus were around 3 metres long, while modern day blue whales can grow up to 30m in length.
The jump in growth is put down to the mass feeding of whales as they began using their baleen filters to harvest rich krill and plankton fields in the teeming oceans of the ancient world.