Evolution is truly a remarkable thing. The fossil of an ancient species of whale has been unearthed and it could reveal new information about several aquatic animals. This is because the prehistoric whale has four legs and may have acted more like a gigantic otter.
The remains of the mysterious whale were discovered in Playa Media Luna, Peru back in 2011. Naturally, paleontologists were unaware that they have found a completely new species when they recovered most of its skeleton, including its jaw, front and hind legs, bits of spine, and tail. After years of study, the scientists have announced the 42.6-million-year-old quadrupedal whale which has been dubbed Peregocetus pacificus.
Peregocetus looked like a gigantic otter that was equally adapted to both land and water.
The name Peregocetus pacificus actually has a very specific meaning. It means “the traveling whale that reached the Pacific” in Latin. The ancient whale was named as such because it was previously believed that aquatic mammals reached North America by swimming from West Africa across the Atlantic. However, Peregocetus has revealed that these ancestors of whales and dolphins actually made South America their home during the Eocene.
So what makes Peregocetus so interesting? Analysis of the fossil confirms it was well adapted to both land and sea, just like modern otters and beavers. Its tail bones were also similar to those of beavers and otters and may have been used for swimming. Additionally, its appendages may have been webbed. However, Peregocetus just happens to be about 13 feet in length, making it twice the size of today’s otters.
A reconstruction reveals how Peregocetus moved in water and on land.
“This is the first indisputable record of a quadrupedal whale skeleton for the whole Pacific Ocean, probably the oldest for the Americas, and the most complete outside India and Pakistan,” Lambert said.
The scientists are planning to keep searching Playa Media Luna in hopes for finding more prehistoric species that were previously undiscovered.
Learn more about this curious creature in the video below:
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