Lead experts to believe the four-meter-long creature lived a semi-aquatic lifestyle.
On the coast of Peru, archaeologists made a startling discovery when the remains of a hoofed marine animal-believed to be the ancestor to the whale- were excavated from the beach where it washed ashore some 43 million years ago.
"This is the first indisputable 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.
The combination of a powerful tail; strong, stocky legs; a narrow skull and webbed hooves, lead experts to believe the four-meter-long creature lived a semi-aquatic lifestyle, much like the modern otter.
Ancient Whale Expert Travis Park, from London’s Natural History Museum, told the Guardian, “Even though it could swim in the water [with] no problem, it still had little hooves on its fingers and toes. It’d be a lot more capable than seals at getting around on land,” Park explained.
Although these are not the first ancient whale artifacts to be discovered, Peregocetus pacificus (or “the travelling whale that reached the Pacific”) is the first almost perfectly preserved and intact skeleton found to date.
Researchers say the land whale likely returned to shore for various activities such as mating and giving birth.
“Whales are this iconic example of evolution. They went from small hoofed mammals to the blue whale we have today. It’s so interesting to see how they conquered the oceans,” Park said.
The remains of the first fully aquatic whales are believed to have appeared 41 to 35 million years ago, some 25 million years after the dinosaurs went extinct.