Cairo (AP) —Egyptian scientists say the four-legged prehistoric baleen whale fossil, unearthed in the western desert of the country more than a decade ago, is a previously unknown species of fossil. say. The ancestor of modern baleen whales, this creature is believed to have lived 43 million years ago.
The prehistoric baleen whale, known as semi-aquatic because it lived both on land and in the sea, had the characteristics of a skilled hunter, Hesham Salam, the team’s leading paleontologist, told The Associated Press.
The fossil was first discovered by a team of Egyptian environmentalists in 2008 in a prehistoric sea-covered area, but researchers only released findings confirming the new species last month.
Salam said his team did not begin investigating fossils until 2017 because they wanted to bring together the best and most talented Egyptian paleontologists for research.
“This is the first time in the history of Egyptian vertebrate paleontology that the Egyptian team has led the documentation of new genera and species of four-legged baleen whales,” Sallam said.
Fossils shed light on the evolution of baleen whales from herbivorous terrestrial mammals to carnivorous species that today only live in water. According to an article published about the discovery of Proceedings of the Royal Society Bulletin B, the transition took about 10 million years.
The Western Desert Region of Egypt is already known for its so-called baleen whale valley, or Wadi El Hitan. Wadi El Hitan is a tourist attraction and the only natural heritage site in the country, including fossil ruins of another type of prehistoric whale.
The newly discovered creature belongs to the family of the extinct semi-aquatic baleen whale Protecetids, which lived 59 to 34 million years ago. It would have hunted underwater as well as walking on land.
Jonathan Geisler, an expert in the evolutionary history of mammals at the New York Institute of Technology, said:
He said the location of the discovery in Egypt was also a clue as to when and how they spread around the world. Geisler was not involved in the discovery.
The oldest fossil baleen whale is about 50 million years old and is believed to have originated in modern Pakistan and India. But scientists couldn’t get a definitive answer as to when the whales moved from their origins to all the oceans of the world.
“This new species alone cannot answer that question, but in the context of other fossil discoveries, it suggests that this dispersal occurred 43 million years ago,” Geisler said. Added that it could serve as a link between India and Pakistan and the North American region.
The fossil baleen whale was named Phiomicetus Anubis after the god of death in ancient Egypt.
Salam, a professor of paleontology at Mansoura University in Egypt, said: “It was able to kill any creature it crossed the road.”
He said the new species stands out with its elongated skull and nose, suggesting that it was an efficient carnivore that could grab and chew its prey. According to researchers, it was about 3 meters (9 feet long) and weighed about 600 kilograms. It is also believed to have had a keen sense of hearing and smell.
The discovery was made following a four-year collaboration between Egyptian paleontologists and US-based scientists, Sallam added.
His team has been talked about around the world for discovering in 2018 Mansoura Saurus, a new species of long-necked herbivorous dinosaur that previously lived in Mansoura, the Nile Delta.
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Egyptian team identifies fossil baleen whale species roaming the land | WGN Radio 720
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