"Humpback Whale" by Azurfrog / CC BY-SA 3.0

Ancient Four-Legged Whale Swam Across Oceans, Walked Across Continents

Apr 4, 2019

By Kimberly Hickok

Picture an animal that looks like a mix between a rhino and a sea otter: It has a narrow head; a long, muscular tail; and four stocky legs with hoofed toes and webbed feet. A new study suggests that’s more or less what the walking, swimming ancestors of modern-day whales looked like about 43 million years ago.

Researchers unearthed the well-preserved bones of an ancient four-legged whale on the coast of Peru, and they detailed their findings in a paper published today (April 4) in the journal Current Biology.

“It’s one of those discoveries that shows how little you know,” said Jonathan Geisler, an evolutionary biologist and anatomist at the New York Institute of Technology, who wasn’t involved with the study. “So that, I think, is very exciting.”

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