Blue whales once had teeth

We’ve written about blue whales in the past. In fact, our post about blue whales changing their tune has been our most popular post. Seems that there is more news on these sea giants. New research published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society stats that the ancestors of baleen whales lost their teeth over 25 Million years ago. Scientists studied DNA from 15 whale species covering all four families of baleen whales.

The scientists found that a single gene, called the enamelysin gene, which is critical to the formation of enamel in all mammals, and in some other creatures, was inactivated in the common ancestor of baleen whales.

“This gene is missing in every baleen whale today,” said Mark Springer, a biologist at the University of California, Riverside, and one of the study’s authors.

Prior research indicates that the ancestor of baleen whales did not have teeth 25 million years ago. Therefore the loss of this gene must have occurred before then, Dr. Springer said.

Modern day baleen whales (including blue whales) have what is commonly called a whalebone (baleen) which functions as a sieve that captures krill and other food and filters the sea water out.

Full article via the NY Times Science Section


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