Modern whales evolved from a primitive group of hoofed mammals into species that were progressively more adapted to life in the water.

thousands of years, so over a lifetime a single human usually can witness only a tiny part of the speciation process. Yet even that glimpse of evolution at work powerfully confirms our ideas about the history and mechanisms of evolution. For example, many closely related species have been identified that split from a common ancestor very recently in evolutionary terms. An example is provided by the North American lacewings Chrysoperla carnea and Chrysoperla downesi. The former lives in deciduous woodlands and is pale green in summer and brown in winter. The latter lives among evergreen conifers and is dark green all year round. The two species are genetically and morphologically very similar. Yet they occupy different habitats and breed at different times of the year and so are reproductively isolated from each other.

The fossil record also sheds light on speciation. A particularly dramatic example comes from recently discovered fossil evidence documenting the evolution of whales and dolphins. The fossil record shows that these cetaceans evolved from a primitive group of hoofed mammals called Mesonychids. Some of these mammals crushed and ate turtles, as evidenced by the shape of their teeth. This mammal gave rise to a species with front forelimbs and powerful hind legs with large feet that were adapted for paddling. This animal, known as Ambulocetus , could have moved between sea and land. Its fossilized vertebrae also show that this animal could move its back in a strong up and down motion, which is the method modern cetaceans use to swim and dive. A later fossil in the series from Pakistan shows an animal with smaller functional hind limbs and even greater back flexibility. This species, Rodhocetus, probably did not venture onto land very often, if at all. Finally, Basilosaurus fossils from Egypt and the United States present a recognizable whale, with front flippers for steering and a completely flexible backbone. But this animal still has hind limbs (thought to have been nonfunctional),

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