The finding is incredible: a four-legged whale fossil similar to that of an otter was discovered south of Lima.
A study published in the scientific journal Current Biology completes the cetaceans’ evolutionary timeline.
42.6 million years
It doesn’t really fit the image that we have of whales but is in fact an ancestor. The palaeontologists who published the results of their research in Current Biology, announced that they had dug up the fossil of a whale ancestor. Only unlike cetaceans today, the researchers noticed that the mammal had four legs.
This cetacean is not what you might call young, with scientists estimating that this specimen is 42.6 million years old. Palaeontologists unearthed this fossil 250km from Lima, in Playa Media Luna, Peru. They discovered a partial skeleton, including a lower jaw, teeth, ribs and vertebrae as well as pieces of front and back legs.
Four metres long
After analysing the fossil, the researchers think that this sea mammal was 4 meters long, but most importantly, it had four legs, which means that it could both move on land as well as in the sea. Olivier Lambert, a palaeontologist at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences explained in a video that it would be a "semi-aquatic" animal like an otter.
This is not the first four-legged whale specimen to be discovered, but it is the first which is as complete in giving us vital information. In fact, with the fossils discovered up until now, it wasn’t possible to confirm for definite whether these cetaceans could swim.
Check out the video above to see more of the curious creature for yourself...