Previously unknown four-legged whale species found in Egypt

By MiNDFOOD

Scientists said they had discovered the 43 million‮-‬year-old‮ ‬fossil of a previously unknown amphibious four-legged whale species in Egypt that helps trace the transition of whales from land to sea.

The new fossil, found in the Western Dessert, is named Phiomicetus anubis.

Belonging to the Protocetidae, a group of extinct whales that falls in the middle of their transition from land to sea, it is one of the most primitive protocetid whale known from Africa.

It had an estimated body length of some three meters (10 feet) and a body mass of about 600 kg (1,300 lb), and was likely a top predator, the researchers said. Its partial skeleton revealed it as the most primitive protocetid whale known from Africa.

It is now being studied at Mansoura University Vertebrate Palaeontology Centre (MUVP).

“Phiomicetus anubis is a key new whale species, and a critical discovery for Egyptian and African paleontology,” said Abdullah Gohar of MUVP, lead author of a paper on the discovery published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Previously, a fossil of a 43-million-year-old whale with four legs, webbed feet and hooves was discovered in Peru. However, this whale belonged to a different family.

Palaeontologists believe the marine mammal’s four-metre-long (13 ft) body was adapted to swim and walk on land.

Named Peregocetus pacificus, its four limbs were capable of bearing its weight on land, meaning Peregocetus could return to the rocky coast to rest and perhaps give birth while spending much of its time at sea. Its feet and hands had small hooves and probably were webbed to aid in swimming. With long fingers and toes, and relatively slender limbs, moving around on land may not have been easy.

The name Peregocetus pacificus, meaning “the travelling whale that reached the Pacific”.

Reporting via Reuters

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