Whales are descended from a “little deer” that walked on Earth 50 million years ago

Whales are descended from a “little deer” that walked on Earth 50 million years ago

The largest animal on Earth swims in the depths of the oceans, but 50 million years ago whales walked the Earth on four legs.

A professor at Northeast Ohio Medical University revealed that the massive creatures are descendants of an ancient “deer”, known as Indohyus.

By researching cetacean evolution, which includes hippos to whales, Hans Thiwsen discovered a 47 million-year-old fossil in Pakistan that appeared on a plump animal the size of a fox with an elongated body and tail.

The bones are attached to a layer of clay that reflects the characteristics of modern whales – the bone over the middle ear and the skeleton of the skull.

Thiwissen and his team also determined that Indochus waded in water like a hippo in search of food and as a way of avoiding predators, eventually leading to the transition from land to a fully aquatic lifestyle.

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The largest animal on Earth swims in the depths of the oceans, but 50 million years ago whales walked on the surface on four legs. A professor at Northeast Ohio Medical University reveals that the gigantic creatures are descendants of an ancient ‘little deer’, known as Indoheus.

Since Darwin, scientists have known that whales are descended from mammals that once walked the Earth, but which one has remained a mystery.

However, the missing link was put together when Thewissen and his team discovered the fossil in Pakistan.

It was installed in a layer of mudstone found in the Kasmir region of India which housed hundreds of bones from Indohyus.

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Scientists describe the skeleton as a “mammal the size of a fox that looks like a miniature deer”.

Through a researcher into the evolution of cetaceans, which includes hippopotamuses to whales, Hans Thiwsen discovered a 47 million-year-old fossil in Pakistan that was of a stocky animal with an elongated tail.

Through a researcher into the evolution of cetaceans, which includes hippopotamuses to whales, Hans Thiwsen discovered a 47 million-year-old fossil in Pakistan that was of a stocky animal with an elongated tail.

Bones trapped in a layer of mud mirrors the characteristics of modern whales - the bone above the middle ear and the skeleton of the skull

Bones trapped in a layer of mud mirrors the characteristics of modern whales – the bone above the middle ear and the skeleton of the skull

After a deeper analysis, the researchers revealed similarities between the skull and ears of both Indohyus and whales.

They found that the bones of the endochondral skeleton have a thicker outer layer, and are much thicker than other mammals of this size.

This characteristic is often seen in slow wading mammals, such as today’s hippos.

“ We think they just sat in the water and waited for prey to drink like crocodiles, ” Teussen said. Discovery Magazine.

Indohyus’ aquatic habits are further confirmed by the chemical makeup of their teeth, which revealed isotope ratios of oxygen similar to those found in aquatic animals – all indicating that the creature spends most of its time in water.

Thiwissen and his team also decided that the River India waded in the water like a hippo in search of food and as a way of avoiding predators, eventually resulting in the transition from land to a fully aquatic lifestyle.

Thiwissen and his team also decided that the River India waded in the water like a hippo in search of food and as a way of avoiding predators, eventually resulting in the transition from land to a fully aquatic lifestyle.

Prior to these findings, it was assumed that the whales descended from carnivorous ancestors that had switched to the aquatic lifestyle to feed on the fish that lived in the ocean.

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What is Indohyus?

The existence of Indohyus could mark the point when some mammals abandoned life on Earth to spend time in lakes, rivers and oceans – before evolving into the gigantic marine creatures we know today.

Their bones had a thick outer layer – a characteristic commonly seen in wading animals such as hippos, as the extra weight helps them acclimate to fast currents.

Scientists describe the skeleton as a “mammal the size of a fox that looks like a miniature deer”.

It has a narrow, alligator-like nose, an elongated body, and a long tail.

The fossil skull also contains a bone over the middle ear space, which is also found in cetaceans.

And the eye sockets sit toward the top of the Hindu head – just like the position of the eyes of a whale.

Thewissen team also looked at Indohyus’ teeth, to see what it was eating.

Levels of different isotopes of carbon and oxygen in the tooth enamel of animals that live on Earth differ from those of aquatic animals due to the different isotope compositions in the food and water they eat.

Indohyus teeth contain higher levels of the carbon-13 isotope compared to water-seeking whales from the Eocene period, indicating that they were feeding on land plants instead.

“We would like to know in more detail what I ate,” Thewissen said. The isotopes in the teeth indicate that they were not submerged plants. We will study that in the future.

Another clue to how Indohyus lived can be found in its limb bones, which were thick and heavy in the same way as a hippo.

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This indicates that the animal was a loser and had heavy bones to help prevent it from floating.

Based on this evidence, Thiessen suggests that whale ancestors switched to water as a mechanism for avoiding predators, and did not develop specific aquatic feeding behavior until long afterwards.

Paleontologist Jonathan Geisler, of Georgia Southern in Statesboro, had previously identified a link between a roid and a whale, but his evidence was based only on small bits of teeth. He says this new work is cementing the link.

“What is really important about these fossils is that they seem to confirm the hypothesis that the ancestors of cetaceans became semi-aquatic before they developed teeth that specialized in eating fish,” Geisler says.

The first ancestors of whales appeared between 42 million and 48 million years ago, which Thuissen describes as resembling sea lions.

Then baleen whales came next, about 41 million years ago, which included the ancestors of humpback whales and blue whales.

It was followed by toothed whales about seven million years later, which still swim in the oceans today.

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