Whales are first found in the fossil record approximately 52.5 million years ago (Mya) during the early Eocene in Indo-Pakistan. Our knowledge of early and middle Eocene whales has increased dramatically during the past three decades to the point where hypotheses of whale origins can be supported with a great deal of evidence from paleontology, anatomy, stratigraphy, and molecular biology. Fossils also provide preserved evidence of behavior and habitats, allowing the reconstruction of the modes of life of these semiaquatic animals during their transition from land to sea. Modern whales originated from ancient whales at or near the Eocene/Oligocene boundary, approximately 33.7 Mya. During the Oligocene, ancient whales coexisted with early baleen whales and early toothed whales. By the end of the Miocene, most modern families had originated, and most archaic forms had gone extinct. Whale diversity peaked in the late middle Miocene and fell thereafter toward the Recent, yielding our depauperate modern whale fauna.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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