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Ancient whale fossils found in Peru desert

Report & Video by Mark Morris

A team of Peruvian palaeontologists has unearthed ancient whale fossils that could be a link between modern sea mammals and their land-dwelling ancestors.

The treasure-trove of fossils was discovered in the vast Ocucaje Desert in southern Peru - an area already famous in the palaeontology world.

The new find, however, is estimated to date back more than 40 million years and represents ancient sea mammals not previously known to have existed in this part of the world.

The fossils are from Achaeocetes, or ancient sea mammals that still have characteristics resembling their land-dwelling ancestors before they returned to the sea.

Over the course of millions of years these land animals took more and more to water environments and eventually their legs evolved into fin-like appendages and their bodies adapted to sea life until they more resembled our modern-day whales and dolphins.

The discovery of the large deposit of these fossils is an interesting case and will be widely studied by Peruvian and foreign palaeontologists because it opens a window of an evolutionary link between sea mammals and their ancient terrestrial cousins.

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