4.4 million years old, Yorktown Formation. Aurora, North Carolina
In the space of just three decades, a flood of new fossils have filled in the gaps in our knowledge to turn the origin of whales into one of the best-documented examples of large-scale evolutionary change in the fossil record. These ancestral creatures were stranger than anyone ever expected. There was no straight-line march of terrestrial mammals leading up to fully aquatic whales, but an evolutionary riot of amphibious cetaceans that walked and swam along rivers, estuaries and the coasts of prehistoric Asia. As strange as modern whales are, their fossil predecessors were even stranger.
5.25 inches tall x 4.75 inches diameter