Data from: No deep diving: evidence of predation on epipelagic fish for a stem beaked whale from the late Miocene of Peru
Lambert, Olivier et al. (2015), Data from: No deep diving: evidence of predation on epipelagic fish for a stem beaked whale from the late Miocene of Peru, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.n27h3
Although modern beaked whales (Ziphiidae) are known to be highly specialized toothed whales that predominantly feed at great depths upon benthic and benthopelagic prey, only limited palaeontological data document this major ecological shift. We report on a ziphiid–fish assemblage from the Late Miocene of Peru that we interpret as the first direct evidence of a predator–prey relationship between a ziphiid and epipelagic fish. Preserved in a dolomite concretion, a skeleton of the stem ziphiid Messapicetus gregarius was discovered together with numerous skeletons of a clupeiform fish closely related to the epipelagic extant Pacific sardine (Sardinops sagax). Based on the position of fish individuals along the head and chest regions of the ziphiid, the lack of digestion marks on fish remains and the homogeneous size of individuals, we propose that this assemblage results from the death of the whale (possibly via toxin poisoning) shortly after the capture of prey from a single school. Together with morphological data and the frequent discovery of fossil crown ziphiids in deep-sea deposits, this exceptional record supports the hypothesis that only more derived ziphiids were regular deep divers and that the extinction of epipelagic forms may coincide with the radiation of true dolphins.