LINK Otter-like fossil reveals early seal evolution
NEW YORK – Scientists say they've found a "missing link" in the early evolution of seals and walruses — the skeleton of a web-footed, otter-like creature that was evolving away from a life on land. Those feet and other anatomical features show an early step on the way to developing flippers and other adaptations for a life in the sea, the scientists said.
One expert called it "a fantastic discovery" that fills a crucial gap in the fossile record.
The 23 million-year-old creature was not a direct ancestor of today's seals, sea lions and walruses, a group known collectively as pinnipeds. It's from a different branch. But it does show what an early direct ancestor looked like, said researcher Natalia Rybczynski.
The fossil was found on Devon Island in the Canadian Arctic, bolstering the notion that the far north was an early center of pinniped evolution, she said.