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Curr Biol. 2019 Apr 22;29(8):1352-1359.e3. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2019.02.050. Epub 2019 Apr 4.

An Amphibious Whale from the Middle Eocene of Peru Reveals Early South Pacific Dispersal of Quadrupedal Cetaceans.

Author information

1
D.O. Terre et Histoire de la Vie, Institut royal des Sciences naturelles de Belgique, Rue Vautier 29, 1000 Brussels, Belgium. Electronic address: olivier.lambert@naturalsciences.be.
2
Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra, Università di Pisa, Via S. Maria 53, 56126 Pisa, Italy.
3
BioGeoCiencias Lab, Facultad de Ciencias y Filosofía/CIDIS, Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, Lima, Peru; Departamento de Paleontología de Vertebrados, Museo de Historia Natural-UNMSM, Avenida Arenales 1256, 14 Lima, Peru.
4
Scuola di Scienze e Tecnologie, Università di Camerino, Via Gentile III da Varano 1, 62032 Camerino, Italy.
5
D.O. Terre et Histoire de la Vie, Institut royal des Sciences naturelles de Belgique, Rue Vautier 29, 1000 Brussels, Belgium; Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, KU Leuven, Celestijnenlaan 200E, 3001 Leuven, Belgium.
6
Departamento de Paleontología de Vertebrados, Museo de Historia Natural-UNMSM, Avenida Arenales 1256, 14 Lima, Peru.
7
Centre de Recherche en Paléontologie-Paris, CR2P (CNRS, MNHN, Sorbonne-Université), Département Origines et Évolution, Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle, 8, Rue Buffon 75005 Paris, France.

Abstract

Cetaceans originated in south Asia more than 50 million years ago (mya), from a small quadrupedal artiodactyl ancestor [1-3]. Amphibious whales gradually dispersed westward along North Africa and arrived in North America before 41.2 mya [4]. However, fossil evidence on when, through which pathway, and under which locomotion abilities these early whales reached the New World is fragmentary and contentious [5-7]. Peregocetus pacificus gen. et sp. nov. is a new protocetid cetacean discovered in middle Eocene (42.6 mya) marine deposits of coastal Peru, which constitutes the first indisputable quadrupedal whale record from the Pacific Ocean and the Southern Hemisphere. Preserving the mandibles and most of the postcranial skeleton, this unique four-limbed whale bore caudal vertebrae with bifurcated and anteroposteriorly expanded transverse processes, like those of beavers and otters, suggesting a significant contribution of the tail during swimming. The fore- and hind-limb proportions roughly similar to geologically older quadrupedal whales from India and Pakistan, the pelvis being firmly attached to the sacrum, an insertion fossa for the round ligament on the femur, and the retention of small hooves with a flat anteroventral tip at fingers and toes indicate that Peregocetus was still capable of standing and even walking on land. This new record from the southeastern Pacific demonstrates that early quadrupedal whales crossed the South Atlantic and nearly attained a circum-equatorial distribution with a combination of terrestrial and aquatic locomotion abilities less than 10 million years after their origin and probably before a northward dispersal toward higher North American latitudes. VIDEO ABSTRACT.

KEYWORDS:

Cetacea; New World; Peru; Protocetidae; amphibious dispersal; biogeography; locomotion; middle Eocene; quadrupedal

PMID:
30955933
DOI:
10.1016/j.cub.2019.02.050

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