Rodhocetus (Wikimedia Commons).


Rodhocetus (Greek for "Rodho whale"); pronounced ROD-hoe-SEE-tuss


Shores of central Asia

Historical Epoch:

Early Eocene (47 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

Up to 10 feet long and 1,000 pounds


Fish and squids

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Narrow snout; long hind legs


About Rodhocetus

Evolve the dog-like whale ancestor Pakicetus a few million years, and you'll wind up with something like Rodhocetus: a larger, more streamlined, four-legged mammal that spent most of its time in the water rather than on land (though its splay-footed posture demonstrates that Rodhocetus was capable of walking, or at least dragging itself along on solid ground, for short periods of time).

As further evidence of the increasingly marine lifestyle enjoyed by the prehistoric whales of the early Eocene epoch, the hip bones of Rodhocetus weren't fully fused to its backbone, which endowed it with improved flexibility when swimming.

Although it's not as well-known as relatives like Ambulocetus (the "walking whale") and the above-mentioned Pakicetus, Rodhocetus is one of the best-attested, and best-understood, Eocene whales in the fossil record. Two species of this mammal, R. kasrani and R. balochistanensis, have been discovered in Pakistan, the same general locality as most other early fossil whales (for reasons that still remain mysterious). R. balochistanensis, discovered in 2001, is especially interesting; its fragmented remains include a braincase, a five-fingered hand and a four-toed foot, as well as leg bones that clearly couldn't support much weight, further evidence for this animal's semi-marine existence.

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Your Citation
Strauss, Bob. "Rodhocetus." ThoughtCo, Jan. 24, 2017, Strauss, Bob. (2017, January 24). Rodhocetus. Retrieved from Strauss, Bob. "Rodhocetus." ThoughtCo. (accessed January 17, 2018).