17 million year old whale skull solves the puzzle of human origin

Researchers have come across a 17 million-year-old whale fossil, which is helping them in solving the mystery surrounding the birthplace of the human race in East Africa.

The fossil belongs to a whale species called Ziphiidoe, studies suggest that whales belonging to this particular species existed when the altitude of the East African plateau was not as high as it is today. Additionally, at that time, the region was also home to dense forests.

A number of studies have been carried out for finding out the exact time of the uplift; gathering knowledge about the event was important for researchers as the uplift prevented moisture from the Indian Ocean from reaching the vegetation of the region. This resulted in the formation of a savannah. .


Researchers believe that the tress of East Africa once used to be the home of our extinct ancestors. According to them, the moment the forest turned into grassland those ancestors of humans started moving on their hind limbs. In other words, they became bipedal.

Henry Wichura of the University of Potsdam, Germany, a member of the research team, said that this entire evolution is a story about bipedalism. Wichura is currently doing his post doctorate in geosciences.

Scientists, to date, have gathered a lot of information about the uplift; however, time and gain they have failed to find out its exact timing. The newly discovered whale fossil has allowed researcher to get closer to that time. Now, scientists are saying that the uplift took place between 17 million years and 13.5 million years back.

It would be wrong to assume that the whale fossil in question has been discovered recently. The fact is that it was found in 1964; however, people came to know about it after more than a decade of its discovery, in 1975 to be more precise.


The most amazing thing is that since then there was no trace of the fossil; it was said that researchers have misplaced it. It was again found in 2011. The fossil belongs to a special species of whale called beaked whale. It is the oldest beaked whale fossil discovered to date.

Beaked whales are known for their deep diving ability; so, it’s quite obvious that they will prefer living in oceans. This particular fossil of beak whale was discovered 740 km or 460 miles inland from where we currently have the East African coast.