Northern pygmy right whales highlight Quaternary marine mammal interchange

Curr Biol. 2017 Oct 9;27(19):R1058-R1059. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.08.056.


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).

Publication types

  • Letter

MeSH terms

  • Animal Distribution*
  • Animals
  • Fossils / anatomy & histology*
  • Japan
  • Sicily
  • Whales / anatomy & histology
  • Whales / classification
  • Whales / physiology*