What we see today as gentle giant whales were once fearsome predators with extremely sharp teeth, Australian scientists said on Wednesday contradicting a popular theory of whale evolution that stated the mammals used their teeth to filter feed.
Using 3D modelling palaeontologists developed digital teeth models of a prehistoric tooth of ancient baleen whales and comparing it to similar modelling of modern predators, a team of scientists based at Museums Victoria found that rather than being shaped as a precursor to filter-feeding, the teeth of ancestral whales were much sharper.
Erich Fitzgerald, Museums Victoria's senior curator of vertebrate palaeontology, said, "These results are the first to show that ancient baleen whales had extremely sharp teeth with one function -- cutting the flesh of their prey".
"Contrary to what many people thought, whales never used their teeth as a sieve, and instead evolved their signature filter feeding technique later -- maybe after their teeth had already been lost."
The findings that were published in the journal Biology Letters, suggested that whales completely transformed thier feeding biology upside down.