Fossil of Walking Seal May Be Missing Link

Happy Earth Day everyone!
While I was at the Canadian Museum of Nature this morning, spending time with the middle school students for the launch of Robert Bateman national writing and art contest, I received the scoop on a bit of really cool news that I had to keep to myself for a few hours — but now that the news is official (and widely reported)…
A new fossil animal has been discovered in Canada’s Arctic, and it may be a missing link in the evolution of seals.
Puijila darwini was a carnivorous mammal that lived 24 to 20 million years ago. This primitive animal, related to the group that includes modern seals, sea lions and the walrus, is entirely new to science. Its name combines an Inuit word for “young sea mammal,” often a seal, with an homage to Charles Darwin.
The skeleton, which is about 65% complete, is of a web-footed, otter-like creature that was evolving away from a life on land. Its features show an early step on the way to developing flippers and other adaptations for a life in the sea.
The fossil was discovered on Devon Island by a research team led by palaeontologist Dr. Natalia Rybczynski. She is a researcher at the Museum and lead author on a scientific paper published on April 23 in the journal Nature.
Apparently, the find was a fluke. You can find news reports here and here.
The fossil will be on view at the Museum in Ottawa from April 28 to May 10, and then will be part of a travelling exhibit. If you’re not in the neighbourhood you can watch a short YouTube clip about the Arctic find.
(Image from Canadian Museum of Nature)