Researchers Found Well-Preserved Fossils of Strange and Ancient Four-Legged Whales

Researchers Found Well-Preserved Fossils of Strange and Ancient Four-Legged Whales

Science

A fossilized four-legged mammal is exposing new details about the evolution and geographic coverage of whales around the world. Researchers say, ancestors of the giants of the sea, once walked around the land before grabbing a more aquatic lifestyle. In a new study, a team of paleontologists has revealed fossils of a strange new species of whales. Researcher Mario Urbina and his team found the fossils at the coast of Peru. The study published in the journal Current Biology sheds light on the evolution of these aquatic mammals. Paleontologists were able to recover mostly all parts of a four-legged whale. The remains include hips, jaw, some of its spine and a bony tail. As per scientists, the fossil is 42.6 million years old, which dates back to the middle Eocene Age.

Scientists named the animals as Peregocetus pacificus, means the traveling whale that arrived at the Pacific Ocean. Previous studies already suggest that whale and dolphins have closer ties with four-legged land creatures in South Asia. But the new study by the researchers of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences reports whale looked more like an otter. According to researchers, the four-legged whale found in Peru had a tail like that of an otter. The tail includes first vertebrae which are the same as the one found in other aquatic animals. Scientists say the whale ancestors might have moved through the water by swimming like a beaver or otter. But the fossil does not include the last tail vertebrae in it.

Dr. Oivier Lambert, a co-author of the study, said it is the first clear and definite record of a four-legged whale skeleton for the entire Pacific Ocean. As per the amazingly well-preserved fossil, the animal would have measured around 11 feet long. Lambert added the whale had a large tail, four hoofed legs. The webbed toes enabled the creature well suited to both sea and land. Experts say there are many gaps in the fossils of whales in case of their traveling. Thus, the journey of those aquatic creatures from South Asia to South America remains a mystery. While scientists surmise the amphibian mammals probably crossed the South Atlantic Ocean from the western coast of Africa.

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