'This partial skeleton represents a creature that could swim very well using its strong tail and webbed hands and feet, yet could still walk around on land on its hooved fingers and toes, ' explains Travis.
According to scientists, cetaceans, the group of mammals that include dolphins and whales, evolved from a small, four-legged hoofed ancestor that roamed the Earth during the Eocene period, which lasted from 56 to 33.9 million years ago.
"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", study co-author Olivier Lambert wrote in an email. The vertebra in the tail are similar to those seen in both otters and beavers, which implies that it would once have moved its tail in a similar undulating fashion, powering it through the water as it hunted for prey beneath the surface.
"It most likely spent most of its time in the water, especially for feeding, as it was certainly better at swimming than walking, but it may have moved back to land to rest, maybe to breed and for other social interactions, and possibly also to give birth", Lambert told Newsweek. Its hoofed feet and the shape of its legs suggest it would have been capable of bearing the weight of its bulky four metre long body and walking on land. It took nearly 10 million years for whales to colonize the entire planet.More news: Canal: Adrien Rabiot and Real Madrid have verbal agreement
The discovery team named the creature "Peregocetus pacificus", Latin for "the traveling whale that reached the Pacific". The hooves coupled with the morphology of the creature's hips and limbs suggest the whale was able to walk on land. Writing in the journal Current Biology, an worldwide team of researchers reveal that the fossil represents "the first record of an amphibious whale for the whole Pacific Ocean".
"We will keep searching in localities with layers as ancient, and even more ancient, than the ones of Playa Media Luna, so older amphibious cetaceans may be discovered in the future", Lambert says.
The skeleton shows that the whale would have been at home on the land and in water.
The Pisco Basin, off Peru's southern coast, likely holds numerous fossils, given its excellent conditions for preservation.
Where Did the Ancient Whale Come From?. But at some point the goat-sized creature Pakicetus-found in what is now Pakistan and India-ended up back in the sea. More news: Mosque massacre suspect to face 89 charges in court
"Those early animals are amphibious, but they are not very good swimmers", said Thewissen, who didn't work on the study.
As whales spent more time swimming, they gradually lost their hind limbs, which interfered with a swimming motion that relied primarily on tail movement, Lambert said. But paleontologists have puzzled over how early whales spread out across the globe. However, after the extinction of the dinosaurs, they went in the other direction: adapting to the oceans again, except with the distinct disadvantage that they now needed...
The location of the fossil on the coast of the southeastern Pacific suggests that early whales arrived in the Americas by crossing the south Atlantic between Africa and South America, the researchers say.
"It has really intriguing implications for our understanding of the evolution of whales".More news: Apple Music Overtakes Spotify In US Paid Subscribers