By Amelia Meyer
Over the millennia, a number of animal species have lived and, sadly, died off. This has been due to climatic changes, human interference and, sometimes, to mysterious circumstances. Cetaceans and, more specifically, whales are no exceptions. The group of extinct, primitive whales are classified in the suborder Archaeoceti. Today, we know of around 140 cetacean species that are already extinct. Studying these and learning more about them provides an interesting foundation on which to understand the whales that are still in existence. It also explains much about the condition of the earth and its waters millennia back.
A drawing of Pakicetus inachus, a whale ancestor.
Skeletons of the Eocene archaeocete whale Dorudon atrox.
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These extinct whales include:
FROM THE PROTOCETIDAE FAMILY
The Himalayecetus subathuensis
This fossil is, to date, the oldest one ever found, believed to be approximately 53.5 million years old. It was found at the foot of the Himalayan Mountains in northern India, which was once under water. This whale was small and had somewhat seal-like characteristics.
The Pakicetus inachus
This fossil was dated at about 50 million years old and is, as such, the second-oldest known example of early whales. It measured about six feet (the average height of a human male) in length and had nostrils on the tip of its nose as well as a pointed tail with no tail fin. Fossilised remnants were found in Pakistan.
FROM THE DORUDONTIDAE FAMILY
The Dorudon atrox
This whale measured about 20 feet (or six metres) in length and had a distinctively pointed snout. It rear limbs were extremely short (only about 10 centimetres long).
This whale’s appearance was more like a serpent, but it had similar proportions to modern-day whales. It also measured about 20 feet in length. The remnants of these ancient animals were found along the east coast of North America.
Fossil of Squalodon, an extinct whale at Musee d’Histoire Naturelle, Brussels.This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.