Neobalaenines are an enigmatic group of baleen whales represented today by a single living species: the pygmy right whale, Caperea marginata , found only in the Southern Hemisphere. Molecular divergence estimates date the origin of pygmy right whales to 22–26 Ma, yet so far there are only three confirmed fossil occurrences. Here, we describe an isolated periotic from the latest Miocene of Victoria (Australia). The new fossil shows all the hallmarks of Caperea , making it the second-oldest described neobalaenine, and the oldest record of the genus. Overall, the new specimen resembles C. marginata in its external morphology and details of the cochlea, but is more archaic in it having a hypertrophied suprameatal area and a greater number of cochlear turns. The presence of Caperea in Australian waters during the Late Miocene matches the distribution of the living species, and supports a southern origin for pygmy right whales.
Marx, F. G., Park, T., Fitzgerald, E. M. G., & Evans, A. R. (2018). A Miocene pygmy right whale fossil from Australia. PeerJ, 6, e5025. https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.5025