As I have noted in the past, it’s usually a very good idea to be cautiously skeptical of claims coming out of paleontology. Morphological analyses alone– especially those that have been used to determine phylogeny and taxonomy within the dog family– have often been in error.
But that said, paleontology does occasionally produce something that, well, blows your mind.
If this paper by R. Ewan Fordyce and Felix Marx of the University of Otago in New Zealand is correct, then we have been classifying one baleen whale species has been incorrectly classified.
The pygmy right whale (Caperea marginata) of the Southern Ocean has long been thought to have been a close relative of the bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus) of the arctic.
However, an extensive study of pygmy right whale morphology and a comparison of their anatomy with extinct whale species suggests that they actually aren’t that closely related to bowheads at all.
It actually has similar features to extinct whales that have been classified into the family Cetotheriidae.
So similar is the pygmy right whale in its morphology to the Cetotheres that authors conclude that it should be included in that family.
And if it is, then this extinct family is resurrected.
Of course, more studies are need to confirm this finding, but if the consensus shows in both morphological and molecular studies, then it will be a great find indeed.