Ancient Whale Fossil Buried In Kenyan Desert Offers Clues To Origin Of Bipedalism

March 18, 2015 10:23 AM

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Ancient Whale Fossil Buried In Kenyan Desert Offers Clues To Origin Of Bipedalism

Millions of years ago, when our long-extinct ancestors were still dwelling in trees, the East African Plateau was at a much lower elevation than it is now. Subsequently, between 17 million to 13 million years ago, a rise in elevation dried the region, turning the heavily forested area into a grassland. Although this shift is believed to have played a pivotal role in the emergence of bipedalism -- the ability to move on two legs -- in humans, the exact timing of the uplift has eluded scientists for decades.

This is where a 17-million-year old beaked whale fossil, rediscovered in modern-day Kenya in 2011, is helping researchers. The fossilized skull is the oldest known fossil of a beaked whale -- a deep-sea dwelling mammal. However, this particular fossil was found far inland -- about 460 miles from the...

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