Wednesday, December 19, 2007

From small ancestors, great whales grow

Evolutionary biologists have long debated the origin of the whales. Now a raccoon-sized mammal called Indohyus, which lived 48 million years ago in what is now India, has been put forward as a candidate for the ancestor of all whales. Despite obvious differences between the semi-aquatic, muntjac-like Indohyus and the largest creatures that ever lived, a team led by American paleontologist Hans Thewissen reports that there are strong skeletal similarities, especially in the skulls and middle ear bones. Other experts are awaiting more analysis to support this fairly radical notion.

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