June 23, 2021

The four-legged whale

The four-legged whale

A group of researchers has found the remains of a four-legged whale with a shape similar to an otter, which they date from 42.6 million years, on the coast of Peru, according to a study published in the journal Current Biology and collected by Efe.

The cetaceans, the animal 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.

Now, this group of scientists from the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences has found remains of a whale with four limbs in the marine sediments of the Peruvian coast, which It gives a new perspective on the evolution of this animal and its dispersion in other parts of the world.

"This is the first undisputed record of a four-legged whale skeleton in the entire Pacific Ocean, probably the oldest in the Americas and the most complete outside of India and Pakistan," said Olivier Lambert of the Belgian institute.

According to the researchers, the presence of small helmets on the tip of the whale's fingers and feet and their hip and limb morphology suggest that they could walk on land.

On the other hand, the anatomical characteristics of the tail and feet, including the long appendages, similar to those of an otter, indicate that he was also a good swimmer.

"We quickly realized that this was the skeleton of a quadrupedal whale, with both forelimbs and hind limbs," said Lambert.

With the help of microfossils, the sediment layers where the skeleton was placed were accurately dated to the middle Eocene, 42.6 million years ago.

The anatomical details of the skeleton allowed us to infer that the animal was able to maneuver its great body (up to 4 meters long, with the tail included), both on land and in the water.

The geological age of the four-limbed whale and its presence along the western coast of South America "strongly support" the hypothesis that the first cetaceans arrived across the South Atlantic, from the west coast of Africa to South America, according to the researchers

"The whales would have been assisted on their journey by surface currents to the west and by the fact that, at that time, the distance between the two continents was half of what it is today," they added.

Experts suggest that, only after arriving in South America, amphibian whales migrated northward and eventually reached North America. EFE

asl / ssa / cr

| Q: CYT: en-GB: 13012000: Science and technology: Animal sciences IHU: en-GB: 08001000: Human interest: Animals CYT: en-GB: 13006001: Science and technology: Research: Study |


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