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Nature. 1993 Feb 4;361(6411):444-5.

Origin of underwater hearing in whales.

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Department of Biological Anthropology and Anatomy, Duke University Medical School, Durham, North Carolina 27710.


All described fossil and Recent cetaceans have relatively similar ear bones (malleus, incus and stapes) that strongly diverge from those of land mammals. Here we report that the hearing organ of the oldest whale, Pakicetus, is the only known intermediate between that of land mammals and aquatic cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises). The incus of Pakicetus is intermediate with respect to inflation, crural proportions, and position of the mallear joint. The incus and mandible of Pakicetus indicate that the path of soundwaves to its ear resembled that of land mammals. These fossils suggest that the first whale was amphibious, and corroborate the hypothesis that artiodactyls (for example, pigs, camels and ruminants) are the closest extant relatives of cetaceans.

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