Scientists have named a newly-discovered species of
four-legged whale Phiomicetus anubis after the ancient
Egyptian god of death
Scientists have discovered a new species of four-legged
whale that lived around 43 million years ago.
A partial fossil of the creature was discovered in Egypt’s
West Desert and named Phiomicetus anubis because of
its skull’s resemblance to that of the ancient jakal-headed
god of death Anubis.
The discovery is critical to helping scientists understand
whales’ transition from land to sea, researchers say.
Like hippos, whales evolved from four-legged hoofed
animals that lived on earth around 50 million years ago.
The fossil is the earliest known whale from Africa from the
Protocetidae, a group of extinct whales that fall in the
middle of their transition from the amphibian to fully
“Phiomicetus anubis is a key new whale species, and a
critical discovery for Egyptian and African paleontology,”
Abdullah Gohar, lead author of a paper on the discovery
published in the journal Proceedings, told Reuters.
His co-author Mohamed Sameh added that the whales of
this period, which have until now largely remained a
mystery, “range from the semiaquatic crocodile-like
whales to giant fully aquatic whales”.
In life, the Phiomicetus anubis would likely have been a
top predator, researchers say, measuring around 10 feet
and weighing more than half a tonne.
Its remains were unearthed from the Eocene rocks in the
Fayum Depression in the Western Desert, which was once
covered by sea.
The fossil has since undergone study at the Mansoura
University Vertebrate Palaeontology Centre in west Egypt
where it will continue to be researched.