The discovery of a partial fossil of a four-legged whale in the desert of Egypt could shed light on the mysterious evolution of this species from land to sea millions of years ago.
43 million years ago, a four-legged whale lived on our planet.
Ancient amphibians, which walked on land, in addition to swimming, are considered the ancestors of modern whales.
On Wednesday, Egyptian scientists announced that they had identified a new species from this unusual specimen.
The fossil of the amphibian Phiomicetus anubis was originally discovered in the Western Desert of Egypt.
His name was chosen because his skull resembles that of Anubis, the ancient Egyptian god of the dead with a jackal’s head.
These animals originated from deer-like mammals that inhabited the Earth for 10 million years.
With an estimated weight of 600 kilograms and a length of three meters, Phiomecetus anubis enjoyed powerful jaws to capture its prey, according to a study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
The skeleton was found in the Fayoum depression west of the Nile River by scientists from Mansoura University.
Although the area is now desert, it was once covered by the sea and is a rich source of fossils.
“Phiomycetus anubis is a new species of whale that constitutes a crucial discovery for Egyptian and African palaeontology,” Abdullah Gohar, the study’s lead author, told Reuters news agency.
While this isn’t the first time a legged whale fossil has been found, Phiomycetus anubis could be the first type of semi-aquatic whale ever discovered in Africa.
Hisham Salam, founder of the Center for Vertebrate Paleontology at Mansoura University, celebrated the discovery and posted the location of the discovery in the Egyptian desert on Twitter.
The researchers said the early evolution of whales in Africa remains largely a mystery.
The first whales are believed to have evolved in southern Asia about 50 million years ago.
In 2011, a team of paleontologists in Peru discovered a 43 million-year-old whale fossil with four legs, bare feet, and hooves.
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