5. Janjucetus hunderi

Fierce whale ancestor of modern giants

Janjucetus was a small whale that lived around 25 million years ago off the Victorian coast. It hunted large fish for food, gripping them between its sharp teeth with the help of powerful jaw muscles.

Despite having fearsome teeth, the skull bones of Janjucetus show that it was in fact a very primitive baleen whale – but without baleen. Janjucetus is therefore a vivid evolutionary link between ancient whales and modern giants like the Blue Whale. A few fossils of relatives have been found elsewhere in the southern hemisphere, but Janjucetus has only been found in Victoria.

About the animal

Illustration and fossil of Janjucetus hunderi

Scientific name

Janjucetus hunderi

How do you say its name?

Jan-juh-SEE-tuss HUN-der-eye

How big?

Three metres long

When did it live?

25 million years ago

What did it eat?

Fish


Fossil facts

Significant Victorian location

Jan Juc, Surf Coast
Wathaurong/WaddaWurrung Country

Traditional Owners

Wadawurrung people

Who found it?

Local teenager Staumn Hunder, who spotted the fossils on the shore.

Who described and named it?

Senior Curator Vertebrate Palaeontology, Museums Victoria, Dr Erich Fitzgerald

What is special about it?

Janjucetus was a predatory ancestor to the giant filter-feeding whales of today.

Significance of the fossil

Janjucetus is unique to Victoria.

Full name and meaning

Named after the place it was found, Jan Juc, and the person who found the fossil, Staumn Hunder.

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