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Prehistoric Roundup

February 20, 2009

A newly discovered fossil reveals a warmer climate in the past.


Whales that hit the beach. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Scientists have long known that whales evolved from land mammals. They’ve even found whale skeletons with tiny rear legs. Now researchers have found an even earlier transitional whale that divided its time between land and water. The skeleton was a pregnant female, and the fetus was in position for a head-first delivery—characteristic of land mammals. The whale was only about 8 feet long and still had limbs capable of scooting around on land.

Well, researchers are still buzzing over the discovery of a 45-foot long snake fossil. Since the size of snakes is related to temperature, researchers were able to determine that equatorial South America was about 6 degrees warmer 60 million years ago—information valuable to climatologists trying piece together the history of earth’s climate. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.