Discovery of four-legged whale fossil could unlock secrets of evolution

Scientists have found ‮‬fossils dating back 43 million years that appear to come from a four-legged whale species that has not been discovered before.

Crucially the find could help to deepen further scientist's knowledge of how whales evolved to transition from land to sea over millions of years of evolution.

The newly discovered amphibious whale was found in Egypt and appears to belong to the Protocetidae family, a group of extinct whales.

The fossil of the whale named Phiomicetus anubis was unearthed from the middle Eocene rocks in Egypt's Western Desert, an area once covered by vast seas, reports euronews.

Around three metres long and weighing an estimated 600kg the Phiomicetus anubis would have been at the top of the food chain.

According to the study published by the Proceedings of the Royal Society B its strong jaws would be used to clamp down and eat its prey.

The partial skeleton discovered is said to be a new species that differs from any other protocetids found and was analysed at the Mansoura University Vertebrate Palaeontology Centre (MUVP).

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"Phiomicetus anubis is a key new whale species, and a critical discovery for Egyptian and African palaeontology," the study's lead author, Abdullah Gohar, said.

It is though the ancestors of whales transformed from "herbivorous, deer-like, terrestrial mammals" into "carnivorous and fully aquatic cetaceans (aquatic mammals)"

According to the BBC, fossils of whales with legs have been unearthed before but the Phiomicetus anubis is thought to be the earliest amphibious whale found on the continent of Africa.

Scientists have previously found fossils of four-legged whales, most noticeably in Peru in 2011.

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