Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry
Life History and Behavior
Perception Channels: tactile ; chemical
Key Reproductive Features: gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Statistics of barcoding coverage
Specimens with Sequences:7
Specimens with Barcodes:7
Species With Barcodes:1
Eschrichtiidae or the gray whales is a family of baleen whale (suborder Mysticeti) with a single extant species, the gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus). The family, however, also includes three described fossil genera: Archaeschrichtius and Eschrichtioides from the Miocene and Pliocene of Italy respectively, and Gricetoides from the Pliocene of North Carolina. The names of the extant genus and the family honours Danish zoologist Daniel Eschricht.
The Scrag Whale is near a kin to the Fin-back, but instead of a Fin upon his Back, the Ridge of the Afterpart of his Back is cragged with half a Dozen Knobs or Nuckles; he is nearest the right Whale in Figure and for Quantity of Oil; his Bone is white, but won't split.
The gray whale was first described as a distinct species by Lilljeborg 1861 based on a subfossil found in the brackish Baltic Sea, apparently a specimen from the now extinct north Atlantic population. Lilljeborg, however, identified it as "Balaenoptera robusta", a species of rorqual whale. Gray 1864 realized that the rib and scapula of the specimen was different from those of any known rorquals, and therefore erected a new genus for it, Eschrichtius. Van Beneden & Gervais 1868 were convinced that the bones described by Lilljeborg could not belong to a living species but that they were similar to fossils that Van Beneden had described from the harbour of Antwerp (most of his named species are now considered nomina dubia) and therefore named the gray whale Plesiocetus robustus, reducing Lilljeborg's and Gray's names to synonyms.
Scammon 1869 produced one of the earliest descriptions of living Pacific gray whales, and notwithstanding that he was among the whalers who nearly drove them to extinction in the lagoons of the Baja California, they were and still are associated with him and his description of the species. At this time, however, the extinct Atlantic population was considered a separate species (Eschrischtius robustus) from the living Pacific population (Rhachianectes glaucus).
Things got increasingly confused as 19th century scientists introduced new species at an alarming rate (e.g. Eschrichtius pusillus, E. expansus, E. priscus, E. mysticetoides), often based on fragmentary specimens, and taxonomists started to use several generic and specific names interchangeably and not always correctly (e.g. Agalephus gobbosus, Balaenoptera robustus, Agalephus gibbosus). Things got even worse in the 1930s when it was finally realised that the extinct Atlantic population was the same species as the extant Pacific population, and the new combination Eschrichtius gibbosus was proposed.
A specimen from the Late Pliocene of northern Italy, named "Cetotherium" gastaldii by Strobel 1875 and renamed "Balaenoptera" gastaldii by Portis 1885, was identified as a basal eschrichtiid by Bisconti 2008 who recombined it to Eschrichtioides gastaldii.
Steeman et al. 2009 found that the gray whale is phylogenetically distinct from rorqual whales and that previous morphological studies were correct in the conclusion that the evolution of gulp feeding was a single event in the rorqual lineage.
Fossils of Eschrichtiidae have been found in all major oceanic basins in the Northern Hemisphere, and the family is believed date back to the Late Miocene. Today, gray whales are only present in the northern Pacific, but a population was also present in the northern Atlantic before being driven to extinction by European whalers three centuries ago.
Fossil eschrichtiids from before the Holocene are rare compared to other fossil mysticetes. The only Pleistocene fossil from the Pacific referred to E. eschrichtius is a partial skeleton and an associated skull from California, estimated to be about 200 thousand years old. However, a late Pliocene fossil from Hokkaido, Japan, referred to Eschrichtius sp. is estimated to be and a similar unnamed fossil has been reported from California.
In their description of Archaeschrichtius ruggieroi from the late Miocene of Italy, Bisconti & Varola 2006 argued that eschrichtiids most likely originated in the Mediterranean Basin about and remained there, either permanently or intermittently, at least until the Early Pliocene (5–3 Mya), (but see Messinian salinity crisis.)
- Bisconti 2008
- Pyenson & Lindberg 2011
- Jones & Swartz 2008, p. 503
- E.g. Erxleben 1777, pp. 610–611; Anderson 1746, p. 201; Brisson 1762, p. 221
- Barnes & McLeod 1984, pp. 4–5
- Dudley 1725, p. 258
- Lilljeborg 1861, p. 39
- Gray 1864, p. 351
- Van Beneden & Gervais 1868, pp. 290–291
- Scammon 1874, The marine mammals of the north-western coast of North America
- Bryant 1995, pp. 857–859
- Bisconti 2008, Results, pp. 173–174
- Strobel 1875, p. 136
- Pyenson & Lindberg 2011, Fossil record of gray whales
- Deméré, Berta & McGowen 2005, pp. 119–120
- Steeman et al. 2009, p. 580
- Bisconti & Varola 2006, p. 450
- Bisconti & Varola 2006, Implications for eschrichtiid fossil record and paleobiogeography, p. 454
- Anderson, J. (1746). Nachrichten von Island, Grönland und der Strasse Davis (in German). Hamburg: Verlegts Georg Christian Grund, Buckdr. Retrieved November 2013.
- Barnes, L. G.; McLeod, S. A. (1984). "The Fossil Record and Phyletic Relationships of Gray Whales". In Jones, M. L.; Swartz, S. L.; Leatherwood, S. The Gray Whale: Eschrichtius Robustus. Academic Press. pp. 3–28. ISBN 9780080923727. Retrieved November 2013.
- Bisconti, M. (2008). "Morphology and phylogenetic relationships of a new eschrichtiid genus (Cetacea: Mysticeti) from the Early Pliocene of northern Italy". Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 153: 161–186. doi:10.1111/j.1096-3642.2008.00374.x. OCLC 438026086. Lay summary (November 2013).
- Bisconti, M.; Varola, A. (2006). "The oldest eschrichtiid mysticete: and a new morphological diagnosis of Eschrichtiidae (gray whales)". Rivista Italiana di Paleontologia e Stratigrafia 112 (3): 447–457. Retrieved November 2013. Lay summary (November 2013).
- Brisson, M. J. (1762). Regnum animale in classes IX. distributum, sive, Synopsis methodica (in Latin, French). Lieden: Apud Theodorum Haak. OCLC 13184910. Retrieved November 2013.
- Bryant, P. J. (1995). "Dating Remains of Gray Whales from the Eastern North Atlantic". Journal of Mammalogy 76 (3): 857–861. JSTOR 1382754.
- Deméré, T.A; Berta, A.; McGowen, M. R. (2005). "The taxonomic and evolutionary history of fossil and modern balaenopteroid mysticetes". Journal of Mammalian Evolution 12 (1/2): 99–143. doi:10.1007/s10914-005-6944-3. Retrieved November 2013.
- Dudley, P. (1725). "An Essay upon the Natural History of Whales, with a particular Account of the Ambergris found in the Sperma Ceti Whale. In a Letter to the Publisher, from the Honourable Paul Dudley, Esq; F. R. S". Philosophical Transactions (1683-1775) 33: 256–269. doi:10.1098/rstl.1724.0053. Retrieved November 2013.
- Ellerman, J. R.; Morrison-Scott, T. C. S. (1951). Checklist of Palaearctic and Indian Mammals 1758 to 1946. British Museum (Natural History). pp. 1–810. OCLC 469669291. Retrieved November 2013. Lay summary (November 2013).
- Erxleben, J. C. P. (1777). Systema regni animalis per classes, ordines, genera, species, varietates, cum synonymia et historia animalium. Classis 1: Mammalia (in Latin). Leipzig: Weygandianis. OCLC 22224991. OL 23666710M. Retrieved November 2013. Lay summary (November 2013).
- Gray, J. E. (1864). "Notes on the Whalebone-Whales; with a Synopsis of the Species". The Annals and Magazine of Natural History. 3 14: 345–353. Retrieved November 2013.
- Jones, M. L.; Swartz, S. L. (2008). "Gray whale". In Perrin, William F.; Würsig, Bernd; Thewissen, J. G. M. Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals. Academic Press. pp. 503–511. ISBN 978-0-12-373553-9.
- Lilljeborg, W. (1861). Öfversigt af de inom Skandinavien (Sverige och Norrige) anträffade Hvalartade Däggdjur (Cetacea) (in Swedish). doi:10.5962/bhl.title.15843. OCLC 670223335. Retrieved November 2013.
- Portis, A. (1885). Catalogo descrittivo dei Talassoterii rinvenuti nei terreni terziarii del Piemonte e della Liguria (in Italian). Turin: Ermanno Loescher. OCLC 9527515. Retrieved November 2013. Lay summary (November 2013).
- Pyenson, N. D.; Lindberg, D. R. (2011). "What Happened to Gray Whales during the Pleistocene? The Ecological Impact of Sea-Level Change on Benthic Feeding Areas in the North Pacific Ocean". PLoS ONE 6 (7): e21295. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0021295. PMC 3130736. PMID 21754984.
- Scammon, C. M. (1869). "On the cetaceans of the western coast of North America". Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia 21: 13–63. JSTOR 4060095.
- Scammon, C. M. (1874). "The California Gray Whale". The marine mammals of the north-western coast of North America. San Franc.: John H. Carmany and Co. pp. 20–33. Retrieved November 2013.
- Steeman, M. E.; Hebsgaard, M. B.; Fordyce, R. Ewan; Ho, S. Y. W.; Rabosky, D. L.; Nielsen, R.; Rahbek, C.; Glenner, H.; Sørensen, M. V.; Willerslev, E. (2009). "Radiation of Extant Cetaceans Driven by Restructuring of the Oceans". Systematic Biology 58 (6): 573–585. doi:10.1093/sysbio/syp060.
- Strobel, P. (1875). "Notizie preliminari su le Balenoptere fossili subappennine del Museo parmense". Bollettino del R. Comitato Geologico d'Italia (in Italian) 5 (6): 131–140. Retrieved November 2013. Lay summary (November 2013).
- Van Beneden, P. J.; Gervais, P. (1868). Ostéographie des cétacés vivants et fossiles, comprenant la description et l'iconographie du squelette et du système dentaire de ces animaux; ainsi que des documents relatifs à leur histoire naturelle. Paris: A. Bertrand. doi:10.5962/bhl.title.9521. Retrieved November 2013. Lay summary (November 2013).
- Weber, M. (1904). Die Säugetiere (in German). Jena: G. Fischer. OCLC 2662569. Retrieved November 2013. Lay summary (November 2013).
- Whitmore, F. C.; Kaltenbach, J. A. (2008). "Neogene Cetacea of the Lee Creek Phosphate Mine, North Carolina". Virginia Museum of Natural History Special Publication 14: 181–269. Lay summary (November 2013).
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