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New Answers to Whale of a Mystery

• August 17, 2011 • 11:33 AM

Biologist Graham Slater explains that the evolution of whales into behemoths of the sea occurred in evolutionary spurts and not in a slow and steady process.

There are around a hundred species of whales all over the world, from the mighty 200-ton blue whale to the tiny 100-pound vaquita. How did the whales evolve so diversely?

In the podcast, Graham Slater, an evolutionary biologist at UCLA, explains how the tiny land-based ancestor of all mammals evolved into the multi-ton whales that we see today.

Slater discovered that whales experienced an explosion of evolutionary activity 35 million years ago. Far earlier in their evolutionary history than scientists had previously imagined, whales had already evolved into the basic forms that are found today. Slater explains that far from being a slow, steady process, the evolution of whales occurred in a quick spurt.

Click to hear podcast

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Music used in this podcast includes Bring It On No Vox by Jamie Miller and David Matheson, and Such a Fine Young Man by DoKashiteru.


Jai Ranganathan
Dr. Jai Ranganathan is a biologist and his research focuses on questions of species conservation. He can be reached at jai.ranganathan at

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