Researchers have found a fossilized ancestor of modern seals and sea lions that they say represents an evolutionary step in the organisms' transition from land-dwelling mammals to the aquatic creatures they are today. The fossil skeleton is thought to be more than 20 million years old, making it the earliest fossil pinniped -- the taxonomic name for seals, sea lions and walruses -- yet discovered, they report in the latest issue of __Nature__.
The nearly-complete fossilized skeleton of __Puijila darwini__, which probably had webbed feet and a long tail and looked something like an otter, turned up on a small island in the Canadian Arctic where scientists have found other fossil mammals deposited about 20 million years ago. "We're interested in the land-to-sea transition," linkurl:Natalia Rybczynski,;http://www.carleton.ca/biology/people/adjuncts/rybczynski/ a paleobiologist at the Canadian...
Illustration by/courtesy of
Mark A. Klingler of Carnegie Museum
of Natural History (CMNH)
Photo by Martin Lipman.
Copyright Canadian Museum of Nature.
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