Peregocetus is a genus of early whale that lived in what is now Peru during the Middle Eocene epoch. Its fossil was uncovered in 2011 in the Yumaque Member (Paracas Formation) of the Pisco Basin at Playa Media Luna by a team consisting of members from Belgium, Peru, France, Italy, and the Netherlands. Parts recovered include the jaw, front and hind legs, bits of spine, and tail. Olivier Lambert, a scientist at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences and lead author of the study, noted that Peregocetus "fills in a crucial [knowledge] gap" about the evolution of whales and their spread.
Temporal range: Middle Eocene
|Size silhouette of Peregocetus compared to a human.|
Lambert et al., 2019
Peregocetus is the first recorded quadrupedal whale from the Pacific Ocean and the Southern Hemisphere. The discovery reveals that protocetids reached the Pacific Ocean and attained a near circumequatorial distribution while retaining functional weight-bearing limbs.
Peregocetus was essentially a four-legged whale: however, it had webbed feet with small hooves on the tips of its toes, making it more capable of moving on land than modern seals. It featured sharp teeth and a long snout which suggests it fed on fish and/or crustaceans. From its caudal vertebrae, it has been suggested that it might have possessed a flattened tail similar to a beaver.
- Lambert, Olivier; Bianucci, Giovanni; Salas-Gismondi, Rodolfo; Di Celma, Claudio; Steurbaut, Etienne; Urbina, Mario; de Muizon, Christian (4 April 2019). "An amphibious whale from the Middle Eocene of Peru reveals early South Pacific dispersal of quadrupedal cetaceans". Current Biology. 29 (8): 1352–1359.e3. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2019.02.050. PMID 30955933.
- Wright, Pam (5 April 2019). "Fossilized Remains of Ancient 4-Legged Whale Discovered in Peru". The Weather Channel. Retrieved 5 April 2019.
- Devlin, Hannah (4 April 2019). "Fossil of ancient four-legged whale with hooves discovered". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 April 2019.
- "Unknown Species of Ancient Four-Legged Whale Uncovered in Peru". Gizmodo. 4 April 2019.