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Bite marks revisited – evidence for middle-to-late Eocene Basilosaurus isis predation on Dorudon atrox (both Cetacea, Basilosauridae)

JM Fahlke
2012 Palaeontologia Electronica  
Fahlke, Julia M. 2012. Bite marks revisited -evidence for middle-to-late Eocene Basilosaurus isis predation on Dorudon atrox (both Cetacea, Basilosauridae). ABSTRACT Basilosauridae are cosmopolitan fully-aquatic archaeocete whales, represented by larger Basilosaurus isis and smaller Dorudon atrox in the middle-to-late Eocene Gehannam and Birket Qarun Formations of Egypt (ca. 38-36.5 Ma). Adult and juvenile Dorudon but only adult Basilosaurus are found in these shallow-marine deposits. Lethal
more » ... deposits. Lethal bite marks on juvenile Dorudon skulls sparked the idea that adult Basilosaurus invaded calving grounds of D. atrox to prey on their young. However, there has been no direct evidence to support this idea. In this study, bite marks on specimens of juvenile D. atrox that have previously been described but not assigned to a particular tracemaker are reinvestigated, and additional bone modifications are analyzed. Applying computed tomography (CT), digital surface scanning, and three-dimensional (3D) reconstruction, the juvenile D. atrox specimens were digitally placed into the mouth of an adult B. isis. Bite marks match the dentition of B. isis. Imprints of tooth casts of B. isis in modeling clay furthermore resemble bite marks on these D. atrox specimens in shape and size. B. isis was likely a predator that included juvenile D. atrox in its diet. Prey was predominantly captured from a lateral position across the head and sometimes adjusted in the mouth prior to a more powerful bite. Scavenging of B. isis on D. atrox calves is also possible. The diet of Basilosaurus and dietary differences within the genus resemble those known in modern killer whales (Orcinus orca). B. isis is the only archaeocete known to date that possibly preyed on other cetaceans.
doi:10.26879/341 fatcat:pra3fktrjzbifaga2czhbqkxxi