Millions of years ago, whales lost all their teeth and sucked in their snacks

Whales some 33 million years ago were not polite diners. They lacked teeth, so like powerful, prehistoric vacuums, they sucked down entire fish and squid, swallowing them whole.

The image of a gummy, toothless whale disrupts current evolutionary theories that the teeth ancient whales had for chomping down on meals evolved into baleen—the straw-like, keratin structures that filter tiny prey, like krill, from ocean water. However, newly documented remains from a species of ancient whale suggest whales first lost all their teeth entirely, and then evolved to have baleen. Researchers led by a team at George Mason University in Virginia described their findings in a paper published today (Nov. 29) in the journal Current Biology.

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