(Associated Press) Japanese researchers said Sunday a bottlenose dolphin captured last month has an extra set of fins that could be the remains of back legs, providing further evidence ocean-dwelling mammals once lived on land. Fishermen captured the four-finned dolphin off the coast of Wakayama prefecture in western Japan on Oct. 28 and alerted the nearby Taiji Whaling Museum, said museum director Katsuki Hayashi.
Mystech: Remnants of past legs, or future-developing limbs? I for one, welcome the arrival of our Cetacean Overlords. :-) Image within
Fossil remains show dolphins and whales were four-footed land animals about 50 million years ago and share the same common ancestor as hippos and deer. Scientists believe they later transitioned to an aquatic lifestyle and their hind limbs disappeared.
Though odd-shaped protrusions have been found near the tails of dolphins and whales captured in the past, researchers thought it was the first time one had been found with well-developed, symmetrical fins, Hayashi said.
“I believe the fins may be remains from the time when dolphins’ ancient ancestors lived on land…this is an unprecedented discovery,” said Seiji Osumi, an adviser at Tokyo’s Institute of Cetacean Research, at a news conference televised Sunday.
The second set of fins – much smaller than the dolphin’s front fins – are about the size of human hands and protrude from near the tail on the dolphin’s underside. The dolphin measures 2.72 metres and is about five years old, the museum said.
A freak mutation may have caused the ancient trait to reassert itself, Osumi said. The dolphin will be kept at the Taiji museum for X-ray and DNA tests, Hayashi said.