Terrestrial Ancestor of Whales Discovered

The fossil remains of a 48-million-year-old mammal have been unearthed by a team of scientists working in the Kashmir region of India. The research team, lead by Hans Thewissen of the Northeastern Ohio Universities Colleges of Medicine and Pharmacy, classified the animal as an even-toed ungulate and described it as small and deerlike in build. They named it Indohyus.

Indohyus is thought to be a very special discovery. It appears the animal spent much of its life in or near water. The skull and ear of Indohyus resembles those of whales. Additionally, Indohyus’ bones have a thick outer layer characteristic of species that have an aquatic lifestyle. And chemical analysis of Indohyus’ teeth show oxygen isotope ratios similar to other aquatic species. Based on these findings, Indohyus may indeed be the land ancestor to modern day whales.

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