Researchers found the remains of an ancient four-legged whale in 42.6-million-year old sediments on the coast of Peru. The structure of the animal is similar to that of an otter.
“The cetaceans, the group that includes whales and dolphins, originated in South Asia more than 50 million years ago from a small ancestor with four legs and hooves”, Notimérica informed, adding that this could bring a new perspective to the evolution theory and the dispersion of whales around the world.
According to the researchers, the presence of small helmets on the tip of the whale's fingers and toes and its hip and limb morphology suggest that this whale could walk on land. On the other hand, the anatomical characteristics of the tail and feet, including the long and probably webbed appendages, similar to an otter, indicate that it was also a good swimmer.
"This is the first indisputable record of a quadrupedal whale skeleton for the entire Pacific Ocean, probably the oldest in America and the most complete outside of India and Pakistan," said Olivier Lambert, of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, to the aforementioned website.
This discovery started several years ago when Mario Urbina, of the Natural History Museum-UNMSM, in Peru, discovered a promising area to excavate fossils in the coastal desert of southern Peru, called Media Luna Beach. In 2011, an international team, including members from Peru, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium, organized a field expedition, during which they excavated the remains of an ancient whale that has since been called “Peregocetus pacificus” which means "the traveling whale that came to the Pacific."