*All species of Herpetocetus have relatively similar lower jaws, and currently the lower jaw has only been described for the type species, Herpetocetus scaldiensis (the type specimen of which is a lower jaw - more on this later).
The lower jaw of baleen whales has long been assumed to be a fairly diagnostic element, at least in certain groups. Herpetocetus scaldiensis certainly has a very distinctive mandible. Other fossil mysticetes certainly have distinctive mandibles as well. Many fossil mysticetes (H. scaldiensis, Balaenoptera davidsonii, Archaeschrictius ruggieroi, etc.) have been described just off of their lower jaws. Are dentaries really that diagnostic? Perhaps. Demere (1986) used mandibular features to reevaluate "Eschrichtius davidsonii" from the San Diego Formation, which was a chunk of a 30% complete mandible, missing the anterior and posterior ends. Being able to refer a new dentary to this taxon, he demonstrated that the "davidsonii" morphotype was actually a rorqual, and assignable to the genus Balaenoptera, which led to its recombination as Balaenoptera davidsonii. Clearly, mandibular morphology is important, and can be used to assess the taxonomy of certain groups, and 'fix' the taxonomy of certain problem taxa. Are these specimens the oldest known records of Herpetocetus?
To be continued...
Boessenecker, R.W. 2011. Herpetocetine (Cetacea:Mysticeti) dentaries from the Upper Miocene Santa Margarita Sandstone of Central California. PaleoBios 30:1:1-12.
Deméré, T.A. 1986. The fossil whale, Balaenoptera davidsonii (Cope 1872), with a review of other Neogene species of Balaenoptera (Cetacea: Mysticeti). Marine Mammal Science 2:277–298.