Feature: Egypt's discovery of ancient 4-legged whale leap in paleontology: researchers

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, September 10, 2021
Adjust font size:

by Mahmoud Fouly

MANSOURA, Egypt, Sept. 10 (Xinhua) -- Fragments of bones, including a fractured non-human large skull, mandibles, some isolated long crooked teeth, ribs and vertebrae, are placed in a rectangular open box in the Mansoura University Vertebrate Paleontology Centre (MUVP) in Dakahlia province, northeast of the Egyptian capital Cairo.

These fossil bones, dating back to 43 million years ago, belong to an ancient amphibious four-legged whale. Excavated from rocks in the Fayum Depression of Egypt's Western Desert, the discovery is considered a scientific leap in paleontology and zoology, helping trace the story of the transition of early whales from land to sea, according to the researchers.

"It is a new genus and species as its anatomical features tell that it is completely different from any other species previously known to humans," Hesham Sallam, MUVP founder and professor of vertebrate paleontology at the American University in Cairo, told Xinhua.

The MUVP named the whale "Phiomicetus anubis," Sallam said, adding that its genus name "Phiomicetus" is meant to honor the Fayum Depression, while its species name "anubis" refers to Anubis, the canine-headed ancient Egyptian god associated with mummification and the afterlife.

"We register for the first time a new genus and species of amphibious whales that represent a link between the whales that lived in the land and those living today in seas and oceans," Sallam said.

Abdullah Gohar, a researcher at the MUVP and the lead author of the study on the discovery recently published in the biological research journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, has been busy renovating the fossils of the ancient whale.

"It is the first time in history for an Arab or Egyptian team to name a new genus and species of whales previously unknown to the world," Gohar told Xinhua.

The study of the fossils shows that the whale was 3 meters long and weighed 600 kilograms, Gohar said while presenting a colored photo of the imaginary shape of the four-legged whale to Xinhua.

The fossils were unearthed by an expedition led by Mohamed Sameh from the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency, who is a co-author on the study, then they were moved to the MUVP for study.

Some students of geology at the university's Faculty of Science, where MUVP is located, like to visit the MUVP lab and help paleontologists while working on fossils.

"It is a great honor to be a trainee at the MUVP. I hope to be part of a scientific research here in the future," said Ahmed Ashraf, a 19-year-old student.

Usama el-Ayaan, dean of the faculty, said that the state and the university provide all-out support to scientific research at the faculty of science, adding that the Mansoura University ranks first among Egyptian universities in terms of scientific research. Enditem

Follow China.org.cn on Twitter and Facebook to join the conversation.
ChinaNews App Download
Print E-mail Bookmark and Share

Go to Forum >>0 Comment(s)

No comments.

Add your comments...

  • User Name Required
  • Your Comment
  • Enter the words you see:   
    Racist, abusive and off-topic comments may be removed by the moderator.
Send your storiesGet more from China.org.cnMobileRSSNewsletter