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Whales are mammals, like you, and their ancestors once lived on land. So how did they come to live in the sea? This astounding transition came shortly after the rise of modern mammal groups, around 55 million years ago, during a hot period in the Earth’s history. Dinosaurs and large marine reptiles had disappeared some millions of years previously. One group of hoofed mammals spent more and more time in the water, living on the abundant food there. Eventually they left the land altogether — to become whales.