This Ancient FourLegged Whale Could Have Moved Like an Otter Study Finds

first_img The whales we see in oceans today look incredibly different from their ancestors. A new study reported the discovery of a mysterious species of ancestral whale that roamed the land and the sea, and might have moved like a giant otter many years ago.According to the study, which was published in Current Biology, cetaceans (dolphins, porpoises, and whales), descended from four-legged mammals that once occupied Earth. Whales in particular evolved 50 million years ago from small animals that had four legs and hooves, CNN reported.In 2011, paleontologists discovered the skeleton of this early creature in the Pisco Basin in Peru. The bones, which were found by Mario Urbina and his international team, showed some interesting characteristics of this bizarre animal.“As this is the first four-legged whale skeleton for South America and the whole Pacific Ocean, the discovery in itself was a major surprise,” Olivier Lambert, one of the study’s co-authors, told CNN in an email. “We were also surprised with the geological age of the find (42.6 million years ago) and with the preservation state [of] so many bones from most parts of the skeleton, even including a patella (kneecap), some small ankle bones, and the last phalanges with marks of tiny hooves.”A picture of some of the bones of ‘Peregocetus pacificus’ (Photo Credit: Amphibious Whale from the Middle Eocene of Peru/ Curr. Biol./Cell Press/YouTube)According to the team, this is the oldest known whale found in this area of the globe, and it’s the most complete skeleton discovered outside of India and Pakistan, where paleontologists have spotted similar skeletons of four-legged whales before. The team named the creature Peregocetus pacificus, which means “the traveling whale that reached the pacific.” In the past, this four-legged whale would have been up to 11-feet-long with its tale.Whale body shapes have evolved to adapt to water environments, however, scientists still didn’t know how the four-legged whale traveled from South Asia to South America. Lambert said four-legged whales were previously found in three key regions: India/Pakistan (geologically oldest), North and West Africa (slightly younger taxa), and the east side of North America (the younger ones).This ancient four-legged whale most likely had long toes that were webbed, similar to those of other sea mammals. (Photo Credit: Amphibious Whale from the Middle Eocene of Peru/ Curr. Biol./Cell Press/YouTube)“Based on the available evidence, and on the fact that the postcranial skeleton is poorly known in species from both Africa and North America, several questions remained debated,” Lambert added. “When did quadrupedal whales reach the New World? Which path did they take? And what [were their] locomotion abilities during that long travel?”The study suggested that these creatures were able to travel on land and swim in water well. Sadly, the scientists couldn’t locate the last part of the animal’s tail section, but the first vertebra of this section resembled those of modern-day otters. Additionally, the ancient four-legged whales might have moved like today’s otters, with long, webbed toes.There’s still more to learn about this ancient four-legged whale, and scientists will continue to explore the excavation site in Peru and analyze how this bizarre creature moved around our planet.More on Geek.com:X-Rays Reveal Hungry Lizard Mistook Golf Balls for Chicken EggsCute Chihuahua ‘Arrested’ After Boarding a School Bus in TexasStudy Reveals How Grieving Gorillas Gather Around and Groom Dead Relatives Watch: Dolphin Leaps Feet Away From Unsuspecting SurferWatch: Deep-Sea Octopus ‘Billows Like a Circus Tent’ Stay on targetlast_img

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