Hyderabad: Social media users are claiming that about 47 million years ago, whales had legs and lived both on land and in the sea
The claim is true. The ancestors of whales had four legs just like other mammals and strode on land and lived in the water as well.
NewsMeter during reverse image search found the same picture in one of the articles by BBC. The article by BBC stated: "The fossil of a 43-million-year-old whale with four legs, webbed feet, and hooves has been discovered in Peru. Paleontologists believe the marine mammal had four-meter-long (13 ft) body adapted to swim and walk on land."
We then found the same image in an article by CNN which stated: "The whales we know today look nothing like they did millions of years ago. Instead, cetaceans, the group including today's whales and dolphins, evolved 50 million years ago from small four-legged animals with hooves. Rather than being one of the largest creatures on Earth, as they are now, they came from creatures that were the size of an average dog."
"Although whales are expert swimmers and perfectly adapted to life underwater, these marine mammals once walked on four legs. Their land-dwelling ancestors lived about 50 million years ago. Pakicetus, a goat-sized, four-legged creature that scientists recognize as one of the first cetaceans (the group of marine animals that includes dolphins and whales)," said National History Museum in an article.
It was surprising to know how Pakicetus' descendants evolved into whales. We found this evolution as one of the most intriguing evolutionary journeys known to science.
"The ancestors of whales once strode on land on four legs, just as other mammals do. Over time, as they evolved to dwell in water, their front legs became flippers while they lost their back legs and hips, although modern whales all still retain traces of pelvises, and occasionally throwbacks are born with vestiges of hind limbs," said an article by live science.
According to an article by the Washington Post, "Researchers have long suspected ancient whales once had legs. Even today, whales retain tiny hind legs, but they serve no purpose and are contained completely within the body. The forelimbs of modern whales have evolved into flippers."
According to an article by Discover Magazine, "Researchers say that the Georgiacetus vogtlensis, whose fossil was found in Alabama, was one of the last whales to have powerful back legs and a tail like a dog's, and that whales evolved flukes between 40 and 38 million years ago. Paleontologists already knew that the ancestors of whales once strode on land on four legs, just as other mammals do."
We found YouTube videos by Science Insider and PBS Eons which claimed the same about the evolution of Whales.
Conclusion: Hence the claim is true. The ancestors of whales had four legs just like other mammals. They strode on land and lived in the water as well.