The Ancestry of Whales

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Science  21 Sep 2001:
Vol. 293, Issue 5538, pp. 2216-2217
DOI: 10.1126/science.1065305

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Whales are mammals that moved to the sea some 50 million years ago. The question of who their ancestors were has vexed scientists for years. In his Perspective, Rose highlights the report by Gingerich et al., who report unusually well-preserved primitive whale fossils. Rose explains that these fossils reconcile morphological and molecular data for the first time, indicating that whales evolved from even-toed ungulates (hoofed animals) rather than mesonychians (an extinct group of carnivorous ungulates). However, inconsistencies remain, and it is not yet clear whether whales are the sister group of hippopotami or not.