We don’t know. But here are some things to consider:
The NPR story warns:
“We regret to inform you that your nightmares are about to get worse.
A team led by Egyptian scientists have dug up a 43 million-year-old fossil in the Sahara Desert in Egypt of a now-extinct amphibious four-legged whale.
That’s right, folks — a whale with legs.”
The problem with these claims? That’s right, folks — they didn’t find any of the fossil’s legs. Everything you just read about this fossil is the product of imagination. In fact, if you check the technical paper you’ll learn that they found very little of the fossil at all. Figure 1 from the paper, which can be seen online here, shows the bones that were discovered shaded in red. Zoom in and look at the drawing in the middle. You may notice, as I said, a curious absence of red-shaded leg bones.
Also absent: the pelvis, the vast majority of ribs and vertebrae, and the front portion of the snout. Undoubtedly the organism had these bones, but to call this a “whale with legs,” or to unequivocally depict it as some species transitional between terrestrial mammals and whales (as seen above), is to impose a huge amount of evolutionary imagination on the situation.Casey Luskin, “Evolutionary Imagination and Belief Drive False Claims of a “Four-Legged Whale”” at Evolution News and Science Today (September 1, 2021)
It gets better. Read on.
People need these stories in order to keep going on with their lives — as they understand them.
It may matter much less than we think whether the stories are true or not.