An ancient four-legged whale that lived more than 40 million years ago has been discovered giving new insight into how the first whales spread around the planet.

It is believed to be first ancestor of whales and dolphins to reach the Pacific Ocean after crossing the Atlantic.

Scientists found that the amphibious species was 13 feet (four metres) long, had hoofed feet and otter-like features.

Its fossil, which was found in marine sediments along the coast of Peru in 2011, suggests that it had adapted to an amphibious lifestyle.

Scientists have known since Darwin’s time that whales, dolphins and porpoises are descended from four-legged hoofed mammals.

It had been thought that whales first made the transition from land to water in Asia some 50 million years ago, as the earliest whale fossils have been found in India and Pakistan.

Palaeontologists have named the new Peregocetus Pacificus, which is latin for the travelling whale that reached the Pacific Ocean.

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