February 16, 2005

Study Suggests Whales May Be Related to Hippos

I find hippos and whales to be interesting. From what I have read, hippos are very dangerous creatures, at least in respect to human contact.

"WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A second look at some 40-million-year-old fossils provides a "missing link" to suggest that the closest living relative of whales is the hippo, a group of scientists said

Although the hippopotamus does not seem a likely relative of whales, genetic study has suggested they are close. Now, a team at the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Poitiers in France and the University of N'djamena in Chad say they have found more evidence in the fossil record.

"The problem with hippos is, if you look at the general shape of the animal it could be related to horses, as the ancient Greeks thought, or pigs, as modern scientists thought," researcher Jean-Renaud Boisserie said in a statement.

In Greek the name hippopotamus means "river horse."

"But cetaceans -- whales, porpoises and dolphins -- don't look anything like hippos. There is a 40-million-year gap between fossils of early cetaceans and early hippos," Boisserie added.

The earliest cetacean fossils date back 53 million years while the first hippopotamus fossils date to about 16 million years.

Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (news - web sites), Boisserie and colleagues propose a new theory that whales and hippos had a common water-loving ancestor that lived 50 to 60 million years ago."

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