Whales Once Walked The Earth On Four Legs And Here's How They Journeyed From Land To Sea

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Whales are the ocean’s biggest animals. They are undoubtedly gigantic. And while they have their own unique identities and characteristics, there’s one thing very few people know about.

The gargantuan mammals – according to experts – once walked the earth on four legs. Surprised? 

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Also read: Whales Don’t Just Sing Songs Like Us Humans, They Can Even Remix Sounds Together Like A DJ!

Whales belong to the order Cetacea which also includes dolphins and porpoises. The scientists recognised Pakicetus, a goat-sized, four-legged creature as the first cetacean. And he lived on the land about 50 million years ago.

So, what did Pakicetus look like?

The creature looked nothing like a whale but experts believe that it would have felt comfortable in water because when it lived on land, it always stayed close to the edge of lakes and riverbanks in what is now present-day India and Pakistan, reports Natural History Museum. 

Pakicetus

natural history museum

It preyed on small land animals and freshwater fish. Pakicetus could hear underwater. 

How did the whales’ ancestors take to the water?

Gradually, the relatives of Pakicetus ventured into the water and evolved accordingly to their new environment. One of these relatives was Ambulocetus that lived about 50 to 48 million years ago. Ambulocetus lived both on land and in water with its flipper-like feet. It used its tail for swimming.

Dorudon

natural history museum

Then came Dorudon, which lived about 40 to 33 million years ago. It had proper flippers and hind legs. It stayed and procreated completely underwater.

Within 10 million years, from Pakicetus to Dorudon, the cetaceans completely adapted to their new life underwater. 

When did the whales come into the picture?

Descendants of Dorudon evolved into modern-day whales. About 34 million years ago, a school of whales developed a new way of eating with feeding filters in their mouth.

These whales were called baleen whales, which now include blue whales and humpback whales.

Also read: Ever Wondered Why Whales Are So Huge? New Study Finally Solves This Equally Big Mystery

Interesting, isn’t it? Evolution is a wondrous thing and the more insight we gain into it, the more fascinated we find ourselves. 

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