Narrator:Listen to part of a lecture in a Marine Biology Class
Professor:We know whales are mammals and that they evolved from land creatures.
So the mystery is figuring out how they became ocean dwellers.
Because until recently there was no fossil record of what we call “the missing link”-that is evidence of species that show the transition between land-dwelling mammals and today's whales.
Fortunately, some recent fossil discoveries have made the picture a little bit clearer.
For example, a few years back in Pakistan, they found a skull of a wolf-like creature.
It's about 50 million years old. Scientists had seen this wolf-like creature before, but this skull was different.
距今 15 百万年，科学家以为这和以前的化石一样，但事实上，它有所不同。
The ear area of the skull had characteristics seen only in aquatic mammals, specifically whales.
Err, well, then also in Pakistan they found a fossil of another creature, which we call Ambulocetus natans.
The name Ambulocetus natans comes from Latin of course, and means “walking whale that swims”.
It clearly had four limbs that couldn't have been used for walking. It also had a long thin tail, typical of mammals, something we don't see in today's whales.
But, it also had a long skeletal structure.
And that long skeletal structure suggests that it was aquatic.
And very recently in Egypt, they found a skeleton of Basilosaurus.
Basilosaurus was a creature that we've already known about for over a hundred years.
And it has been linked to modern whales because of its long whale-like body.
But this new fossil find showed a full set of leg bones, something we didn't have before.
但这具新化石有 4 个腿骨，这是之前所没有过的。
The legs were too small to be useful.
They weren't even connected to its Power San and couldn't have supported its weight.
But it clearly shows Basilosaurus an evolution from land creature.
So that's a giant step in the right direction.
Even better, it established Ambulocetus natans as a clear link between the wolf-like creature and Basilosaurus.
Now these discoveries don't completely solve the mystery.
I mean, Ambulocetus natans is a mammal that shows a sort of bridge between walking on land and swimming.
But it also is very different from the whales who know today.
So really we are working just a few pieces of a big puzzle.
Emm…a related debate involved some recent DNA studies.
Remember, DNA is the genetic code for any organism.
And when the DNA from two different species is similar, it suggests that those two species are related.
And when we compared some whale DNA with DNA from some other species, we got quite a surprise. The DNA suggests that whales are descendants of the hippopotamus.
Yes, the hippopotamus!Well, it came as a bit of a shock.
I mean, that a four-legged land and river dweller could be the evolutionary source of a completely aquatic creature up to 25 times its size.
Unfortunately this evolution of the hippopotamus apparently contradicts the fossil record, which suggests that the hippopotamus is only a very distant relative of the whale, not an ancestor.
And of course as I mentioned, that whales are descendent not from hippos but from that distant wolf-like creatures.
So we have contradictory evidences.
And more research might just raise more questions and create more controversies. At any rate, we have a choice.
We can believe the molecular data- the DNA, or we can believe the skeleton trail, but unfortunately, not both.
Err… and there have been some other interesting findings from DNA research.
有一些 DNA 研究有趣的发现。
For a long time, we assumed that all whales that had teeth including sperm whales and killer whales were closely related to one another.
And the same for the toothless whales, like the blue whale and other baleen whales, we assumed that they be closely related.
But recent DNA studies suggest that that's not the case at all.
The sperm whale was actually closely related to the baleen whale, and it's only distantly related to the toothed-whales.
现在 DNA 表明，巨头鲸与须鲸有关联，而且仅仅与有齿鲸有遥远的关系，
So that's the real surprise to all of us.