Whales That Could Walk

Can you believe that millions of years ago whales used to have four legs and walked on land? According to paleontologists, gentle giants used to be semiaquatic. Fossil evidence has revealed the preliminary stages in the evolution of the whale, as it transformed from a land-dwelling creature to today's king of the ocean.

The most researched 'walking whale' is Ambulocetus natas, reputed to have lived over 49 million years ago. Scientists and museum curators have worked together to recreate models of the incredible creature.

Walking Whale

Recreation of an ancient walking whale, known as Ambulocetus. Image Credit: American Museum of Natural History

It is believed that this incredible creature would have been three to four metres long and had very strong limbs. The walking whale lived in what we now know as Northern Pakistan, its natural habitat was shallow seas and rivers.

The ancient creature did not possess the graceful movements we commonly associate with the whales of today. Rather, the walking whale could not move with ease nor walk well. According to the American Museum of Natural History, Ambulocetus moved like a sea lion and had "squat legs that splayed from its body, flipperlike hind feet and weighed about 180 kilograms." The museum's upcoming exhibition Whales: Giants of the Deep, opens on the 23rd of March and displays fossils of the early whales.

Although whales of today are sea dwelling creatures, a part of their intriguing ancestoral past remains. The whales legs eventually evolved into flippers. Furthermore, the skelepton of the contemporary whales have revealed tiny little remnants of "hind legs."

Sources: American Museum of Natural History