In Egypt, they found a fossil of a previously unknown species of a four-legged whale, about 43 million years old. The discovery helps to trace the transition of whales from land to sea - all cetaceans descend from land ancestors, but there are many gaps in the history of their evolution.
The newly discovered specimen belongs to the Protocetidae, a group of extinct whales that are ubiquitous. The known protocetids had large limbs that supported their massive body on land. It is likely that they led an amphibian lifestyle.
The fossil was found in rocks of the Middle Eocene in the Fayum Depression in the Western Desert of Egypt. This area was once a sea, but now it has provided paleontologists with a rich reservoir of discoveries showing the evolution of cetaceans.
The new species of protocetids, dubbed Phiomicetus anubis, was about three meters long and weighing about 600 kilograms, the researchers said. Scientists believe this whale was the top predator. Its partial skeleton suggests that it is the most primitive protocet whale known in Africa.
Abdullah Gohar, a researcher at the University of El Mansoura, is working to restore the fossil of a previously unknown four-legged whale
Fossils of Phiomicetus anubis
The name of the genus of whales was given in honor of the Fayum depression, and the name of the species found in Egypt refers to Anubis, the ancient Egyptian god with a dog's head, who was considered the god of funeral rituals and mummification, the patron saint of embalmers and the guide of dead souls in the afterlife.
Despite recent fossil discoveries, the overall picture of the early evolution of whales in Africa remains largely a mystery, the researchers said. Work in this region could reveal new details of the evolutionary transition from amphibians to fully aquatic whales.
Another ancestor of modern whales encourages scientists to speculate about ancient ecosystems, the origin and coexistence of ancient whales in Egypt.