The evolution of cetaceans is thought to have begun in the Indian subcontinent, from even-toed ungulates 50 million years ago, over a period of at least 15 million years. Cetaceans are fully aquatic marine mammals belonging to the order Artiodactyla, and branched off from other artiodactyls around 50 mya (million years ago). Cetaceans are thought to have evolved during the Eocene or earlier, sharing a closest common ancestor with hippopotamuses. Being mammals, they surface to breathe air; they have 5 finger bones (even-toed) in their fins; they nurse their young; and, despite their fully aquatic life style, they retain many skeletal features from their terrestrial ancestors. Research conducted in the late 1970s in Pakistan revealed several stages in the transition of cetaceans from land to sea.
The two modern parvorders of cetaceans – Mysticeti (baleen whales) and Odontoceti (toothed whales) – are thought to have separated from each other around 28-33 million years ago in a second cetacean radiation, the first occurring with the archaeocetes. The adaptation of animal echolocation in toothed whales distinguishes them from fully aquatic archaeocetes and early baleen whales. The presence of baleen in baleen whales occurred gradually, with earlier varieties having very little baleen, and their size is linked to baleen dependence (and subsequent increase in filter feeding). Read more...
...that all forms of natural speciation have taken place over the course of evolution, though it still remains a subject of debate as to the relative importance of each mechanism in driving biodiversity?
...that despite the relative rarity of suitable conditions for fossilization, approximately 250,000 fossil species are known?