From Land to Water: the Origin of Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises

  title={From Land to Water: the Origin of Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises},
  author={J. G. M. Thewissen and Lisa Noelle Cooper and John C. George and Sunil Bajpai},
  journal={Evolution: Education and Outreach},
Cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises) are an order of mammals that originated about 50 million years ago in the Eocene epoch. Even though all modern cetaceans are obligate aquatic mammals, early cetaceans were amphibious, and their ancestors were terrestrial artiodactyls, similar to small deer. The transition from land to water is documented by a series of intermediate fossils, many of which are known from India and Pakistan. We review raoellid artiodactyls, as well as the earliest… 

The origin and early evolution of whales: macroevolution documented on the Indian Subcontinent

The first steps of whale evolution are reviewed, i.e. the transition from a land mammal to obligate marine predators, documented by the Eocene cetacean families of the Indian subcontinent: Pakicetaceae, Ambulocetidae, Remingtonocet Families, Protocet families, and Basilosauridae, as well as their artiodactyl sister group, the Raoellidae.

On the revolution of cetacean evolution.

Middle Eocene (Bartonian) vertebrate fauna from Bandah Formation, Jaisalmer Basin, Rajasthan, Western India

ABSTRACT A small vertebrate faunal assemblage of late Middle Eocene (Bartonian) age is described from the Bandah Formation, a shallow marine deposit in the Jaisalmer Basin of Rajasthan state, Western

Return to the Sea: The Evolution of Marine Mammals

  • R. Davis
  • Geography, Environmental Science
    Marine Mammals
  • 2019
Morphological and molecular evidence support a monophyletic origin for the three extant families of pinnipeds (Otariidae, Odobenidae, and Phocidae) within the taxonomic order Carnivora.

Transition of Eocene Whales from Land to Sea: Evidence from Bone Microstructure

This study highlights the strong need for homologous sections in comparative microanatomical studies, and the importance of combining information from several bones of the same taxon for improved functional interpretation.

Cranial Anatomy of Middle Eocene Remingtonocetus (Cetacea, Mammalia) from Kutch, India

A new skull for Remingtonocetus harudiensis is described which elucidates the anatomy and functional morphology of the head and provides new details on cranial cavity and nasopharyngeal region, suggesting that RemingtonOCetus was an ambush predator that hunted from a perch on the ocean floor, and that hearing was its most important sense.

Cetaceans as Exemplars of Evolution and Evolutionary Ecology: A Glossary

This review, arrayed in alphabetical glossary format, aims to show the breadth and depth of cetacean research studies supporting and investigating numerous evolutionary themes.

Evolution: The shape of cetacean skulls through deep time

  • C. Meloro
  • Geography, Environmental Science
    Current Biology
  • 2022

Protocetid cetaceans (Mammalia) from the Eocene of India

Two new genera and species are described: Kharodacetus sahnii and Dhedacetus hyaeni, both of which are protocetid cetaceans from District Kutch in the State of Gujarat and were recovered in deposits approximately 42 million years old.



Whales originated from aquatic artiodactyls in the Eocene epoch of India

It is shown that the Eocene south Asian raoellid artiodactyls are the sister group to whales and that Raoellids were aquatic waders, which indicates that aquatic life in this lineage occurred before the origin of the order Cetacea.

New whale from the Eocene of Pakistan and the origin of cetacean swimming

This is the oldest fossil whale described from deep-neritic shelf deposits, and it shows that tail swimming evolved early in the history of cetaceans.

The Early Radiations of Cetacea (Mammalia): Evolutionary Pattern and Developmental Correlations

The origin and early evolution of Cetacea (whales, dolphins, and porpoises) is one of the best examples of macroevolution as documented by fossils, and a study of patterns of correlations among morphological traits to test hypotheses of developmental links among organ systems is suggested.

A new, diminutive Eocene whale from Kachchh (Gujarat, India) and its implications for locomotor evolution of cetaceans

Vertebral proportions indicate that the vertebral column of the new cetACEan functioned in different ways from any other known Eocene or Recent cetacean, and suggests that the mobility of the back may have approximated that of otters.

Eocene evolution of whale hearing

The origin of whales (order Cetacea) is one of the best-documented examples of macroevolutionary change in vertebrates, and the fossil record indicates that this evolutionary transition took less than 15 million years.

Origin of Whales from Early Artiodactyls: Hands and Feet of Eocene Protocetidae from Pakistan

Partial skeletons of two new fossil whales, Artiocetus clavis and Rodhocetus balochistanensis, are among the oldest known protocetid archaeocetes, and are important in augmenting the diversity of early Protocetidae and clarifying that Cetacea evolved from early Artiodactyla rather than Mesonychia.

A New Protocetid Whale (Cetacea: Archaeoceti) from the Late Middle Eocene of South Carolina

A new genus and species of protocetid cetacean is described from a partial skull, the posterior portion of both dentaries, 13 vertebrae, and elements of 15 ribs found in the Cross Member of the late middle Eocene Tupelo Bay Formation in Berkeley County, South Carolina.


Analysis of stable-isotope composition of tooth enamel from several early members of each group to reconstruct the dietary, foraging, and habitat preferences of basal taxa confirms that all of these early forms were primarily aquatic.


Abstract Discoveries of three species of Eocene sirenians in District Kachchh, State of Gujarat, India, are reported. A species of the protosirenid Protosiren is represented by cranial and


Three new archawcetes of late early Lutetian are described from the Domanda Formation of the Sulaiman Range in southwestern Punjab, Pakistan, two are protocetids and the third, Dalanistes ahmedi, is a large remingtonocetid preserving much of the skull, including distinctive exoccipitals.