Cladistic analyses of fossils and extant balaenids place Balaenula as the sister taxon of right whales in a clade separate from the bowhead whale.
This genus is known in the fossil records from the Neogene to the Quaternary (age range: from 11.608 to 1.806 million years ago). Fossils are found in the marine strata of Italy, United Kingdom, United States, the Netherlands, France and Japan.
Balaenula astensis was quite similar to the living right whale (Eubalaena glacialis) but much smaller, reaching a length of about 5 metres (16 ft). This ancient mysticete lived about four million years ago. Fossils have been found near Asti (Northern Italy), in a Zanclean/Piacenzian marine sandstone.
An unnamed species from Japan (represented by a partial skeleton) is also known.
^ abM. Bisconti. 2003. Evolutionary history of Balaenidae. Craniium 20(1):9-50
^Marx, F. G. (2010). "The More the Merrier? A Large Cladistic Analysis of Mysticetes, and Comments on the Transition from Teeth to Baleen". Journal of Mammalian Evolution. 18 (2): 77–100. doi:10.1007/s10914-010-9148-4.
^P. J. Van Beneden. 1872. Les Baleines fossiles d'Anvers. Bulletins de L'Academie Royale des Sciences, des Lettres et des Beaux-arts 34:6-23
^L. Trevisan. 1942. Una nuova specie de Balaenula pliocenica. Palaeontogrphia Italica 40:1-13
^M. Oishi and Y. Hasegawa. 1995. A list of fossil cetaceans in Japan. The Island Arc 3:493-505
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