Four-legged whale that lived 40 million years ago and is off the coast of Peru



This illustration shows an artistic reconstruction of two individuals of Peregocetus, one that is found along the rocky coast of modern-day Peru and the other that take advantage of squalid fish. The presence of a tail blow remains hypothetical. Credit: A. Gennari

This illustration shows an artistic reconstruction of two individuals of Peregocetus, one that is found along the rocky coast of modern-day Peru and the other that take advantage of squalid fish. The presence of a tail blow remains hypothetical. Credit: A. Gennari

Researchers discovered fossils of a four-legged whale that lived off the coast of Peru more than 40 million years ago.

The mammal, which is estimated to be 13 feet long, has been named Peregoceto peaceful. The presence of small helmets on the ends of his fingers and the morphology of his hips and extremities has led researchers to believe that he could walk on land.

"This is the first indisputable record of a four-legged whale skeleton for the entire Pacific Ocean, probably the oldest in the Americas and the most complete outside of India and Pakistan," said Olivier Lambert, of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, in a release.

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Lambert continued: "When digging around the bones of the outcrop, we quickly realized that this was the skeleton of a quadruped whale, with both forelimbs and hind limbs."

In addition to the four limbs, which provided the ability to walk on land and return to the sea, it is likely that Peregocetus also had a long snout and teeth to capture the prey. Today's whales use baleen, which is made from the same protein that forms human hair and nails, to capture prey.

"The moderately elongated snout that has robust front teeth with noticeably ornamented enamel and sharp teeth suggests that this medium-sized protoetid was capable of attacking relatively large prey, eg large, bony fish, an interpretation supported by incipient apical tooth wear, "Lambert said in the comments obtained by SWNS.

The ancient discoveries of whales have been mainly in India and Pakistan, but the finding of Peregocetus marks a new era for researchers, said Lambert.

"This is the first indisputable record of a four-legged whale skeleton for the entire Pacific Ocean, probably the oldest in America and the most complete outside of India and Pakistan," he added.

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The findings have been published in the scientific journal Current Biology.


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