Today’s whales can grow up to a whopping 98 ft in length! But did you know that just a few million years ago they only grew to about 32 ft?
Have whales been eating loads of spinach all these years, or did something shift over time that made them grow into the massive sea beasts they are today?
In fact, when whales first came on the scene nearly 50 million years ago, they looked nothing like they do today. In fact, they didn’t even live underwater!
And today, some whales still have remnants of what used to be a bone for a hind leg in their skeleton (it just doesn’t show outside the skin).
Could you imagine if whales still sported legs as their early ancestors did? That would look pretty funny.
– Pakicetus was a 4-footed land mammal and is known as the “first whale.” It was about the size of a wolf and was a carnivore. These mammals lived on land by shallow waters known as the Tethys Sea.
– Some scientists believe that Pakicetus was a land dweller who was forced to swim in the ocean due to lack of food on land or warm temperatures. As they spent more and more time in the water, the animal evolved into a creature that lived in the sea.
– One of the first evolved animals to come from Pakicetus was a species known as Ambulocetus. It lived near estuaries somewhere between 50 to 48 million years ago.
– Over a period of about 37 million years, Pakicetus gradually evolved into over 80 different species of whales. That’s why 27.5 million years ago, one of the first whales was significantly smaller than they are today.
– Whales definitely didn’t start out as the titans of the sea they are today as their smaller size made them easy prey for predators like hungry sharks.
– To say whales were well fed at this time was an understatement! Whales everywhere filled their tummies with scrumptious krill, and they grew larger and larger.
– Whales are consistently the biggest animal on our planet these days. The blue whale, for example, weighs more than a Boeing 757 — passengers and bags of peanuts not included. And their belly buttons are the size of a dinner plate!
– While science has proven that whales have evolved from Pakicetus, they have another possible relative that still lives on Earth with us today: hippos!
– Many scientists believe that whales have hit their capacity for growth once they measure 109 ft. That’s because, at 110 ft, a whale can’t physically close their mouth within 10 seconds before its prey escapes. If it took any longer, they wouldn’t be able to eat, which would lead to their death.