Playa Media Luna is a coastal desert that is unlike any other in the world. It has rolling sand dunes, crystal blue waters and a salubrious climate that you would wish you had back home in your country. Yet, Playa Media Luna is a lot more than unspoiled beaches and pristine natural beauty. Researchers recently discovered the fossil of an ancient whale that lived along the Peruvian coast almost 42.6 million years ago. This newly identified species has been christened Peregocetus pacificus, or “the whale that traveled to the Pacific coast”.
What is bizarre about this fossil is that it has four legs. A four legged whale might seem weird and strange to you, but not to archaeologists who deal with ancient mammals. Whales used to have legs before they lost them as part of the abolitionary process. In fact, whales today bear no resemblance to the whales of ancient era. They could stand and walk on land, reminding you of a time when whales used to be amphibian in nature.
Another surprising part about this discovery is that this is the only skeleton that was found outside India and Pakistan that is so huge and well preserved. If you visit Peru anytime soon, do not expect this skeleton to be exhibited at a museum. Archaeologists and researchers are still studying the skeleton and it may take a while before the ancient whale is put up on display in one of the many natural history museums of Peru.
Meanwhile, do visit Playa Media Luna and imagine a world that was very different. A world where whales had legs and could walk on pristine beaches such as the ones you find in Peru. Today, Peru and many other countries are battling dead whales washing up on their shores and have begun to invest in conservation plans. Most whales that wash up on the shores have plastic in their stomachs, something that their four-legged ancestors did not anticipate 50 million years ago.