Four-legged prehistoric whale fossil found in Peru

The newly discovered early whale Peregocetus, which lived about 43 million years ago, is pictured along the rocky shore of the southeastern Pacific in this undated artistic reconstruction obtained by Reuters on April 3, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 07 April 2019
0

Four-legged prehistoric whale fossil found in Peru

  • The new specimen, described in a study published Thursday in the journal Current Biology, is 42.6 million years old and provides fresh information on the evolution of cetaceans

WASHINGTON: Paleontologists have found a well-preserved fossil of a four-legged amphibious ancestor of whales, a discovery that sheds new light on the mammals’ transition from land to the ocean.
The ancestors of whales and dolphins walked on Earth about 50 million years ago in the regions that now comprise India and Pakistan.
Paleontologists have previously found partial fossils of the species in North America that were 41.2 million years old suggesting that by this time, the cetaceans had lost the ability to carry their own weight and walk the Earth.
The new specimen, described in a study published Thursday in the journal Current Biology, is 42.6 million years old and provides fresh information on the evolution of cetaceans.
The fossil was found about 0.6 miles (one kilometer) inland from Peru’s Pacific coast, at Playa Media Luna.
Its mandibles grazed the desert soil and during excavations, the researchers found the lower jaw, teeth, vertebrae, ribs, parts of front and back legs, and even the whale ancestor’s long fingers that were likely webbed.
Based on its anatomy, the scientists say this cetacean of about 13 feet (four meters) long could both walk and swim.
“Part of the tail’s vertebrae showed similarities with that of present-day semi-aquatic mammals like otters,” lead author Olivier Lambert of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences told AFP.
“This would therefore have been an animal that would have started to make growing use of its tail to swim, which differentiates it from older cetaceans in India and Pakistan.”
Pieces of four-legged whales were found in Egypt, Nigeria, Togo, Senegal and Western Sahara, but they were so fragmented that it was impossible to decisively conclude whether they could swim.
“This is the most complete specimen ever found for a four-legged whale outside of India and Pakistan,” said Lambert.
If the whale in Peru could swim like an otter, the researchers hypothesized that it likely crossed the Atlantic from the western coast of Africa to South America. As a result of continental drift, the distance was half that of today, around 800 miles, and the east-west current of the time would have facilitated their travel.
This finding would make less likely another hypothesis according to which whales reached North America via Greenland.
The Pisco Basin, off Peru’s southern coast, likely holds numerous fossils, given its excellent conditions for preservation.
“We have work for at least the next 50 years,” said Lambert, the paleontologist.


Extreme Easter: Flogging, crucifixions in Philippines

Updated 19 April 2019
0

Extreme Easter: Flogging, crucifixions in Philippines

  • Nearly 80 percent of people in the Philippines are Catholic
  • Catholicism is a legacy of the nation’s 300 years of Spanish colonial rule that ended at the turn of the 20th century

SAN FERNANDO, Philippines: Hundreds of barefoot men beat themselves with flails and at least 10 were to be nailed onto crosses throughout Good Friday in a blood-soaked display of religious fervor in the Philippines.
Frowned upon by the Church, the ritual crucifixions and self-flagellation are extreme affirmations of faith peformed every Easter in Asia’s Catholic outpost.
Barefoot men wearing crowns of twigs walked silently on the side of a village road in the scorching tropical heat of the northern Philippines, flogging their backs with bamboo strips tied to a length of rope.
While many of the 80 million Filipino Catholics spend Good Friday at church or with family, others go to these extreme lengths to atone for sins or seek divine intervention in a spectacle that has become a major tourist attraction.
“This is a religious vow. I will do this every year for as long as I am able,” 38-year-old truck driver Resty David, who has been self-flagellating for half his life at his village in the northern Philippines, told AFP.
He said he also hoped it would convince God to cure his cancer-stricken brother.
Blood and sweat soaked through the penitents’ pants with some spectators grimacing with each strike of the lash.
Some hid behind their companions to avoid the splatter of gore and ripped flesh.
Many in the crowds had driven for hours to witness the frenzied climax of the day’s gory spectacle, when believers allow themselves to be nailed to crosses in a re-enactment the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
“I’m a little bit overwhelmed. It’s very intense, I haven’t expected something like this,” German tourist Annika Ehlers, 24, told AFP.
Ehlers said she had witnessed the first of 10 scheduled crucifixions during the day in villages around the city of San Fernando, about 70 kilometers (40) miles) north of Manila.
Eight centimeter (three-inch) spikes are driven through both the man’s hands and feet before the wooden cross is raised briefly for the crowds to see. After that the nails are pulled out and he is given medical treatment.
The Church says the faithful should spend Lent in quiet prayer and reflection.
“The crucifixion and death of Jesus are more than enough to redeem humanity from the effects of sins. They are once in a lifetime events that need not be repeated,” Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines official Father Jerome Secillano said.
“Holy Week.... is not the time to showcase man’s propensity for entertainment and Pharisaical tendencies,” he added.
Nearly 80 percent of people in the Philippines are Catholic, a legacy of the nation’s 300 years of Spanish colonial rule that ended at the turn of the 20th century.