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Add One More to Egypt's Significant Discoveries: Phiomicetus Anubis

By: Nour Hany

In a scientific environment at Mansoura University, a team of passionate Egyptian scientists discovered a fossil of an unknown four-legged whale that lived 43 million years ago in Egypt's western desert in Fayum. This discovery marks a turning point in the Arab, Egyptian, and African world of paleontology, as it is the very first time for an Egyptian team of scientists to discover and record a completely new whale species.

The phiomicetus anubis weighed approximately 600 kg and was about three meters long. The whale had amazing features that helped it survive with a strong jaw to catch its prey; it was also able to both swim in water and walk on land. Phiomicetus anubis is not the first four-legged whale to be discovered; however, up till now, it is believed to be the earliest semi-aquatic whale to be found in Africa.


The Whales We Know Today Are Not the Whales that Lived 50 Million Years Ago

Fifty million years ago, whales were able to live in the water and also roam the land. It is thought that, when they first evolved in South Asia, they had legs, hair, and other features that go with both land and water. The whales we see today are adapted to the underwater life. According to Whales Online "Millions of years in the sea have favored transformations to facilitate life in this new environment. Nostrils have evolved into blowholes and are now located at the top of the head. Hind limbs have disappeared and front limbs have transformed into fins. The body has lost its fur and nearly all of its hair. It is streamlined. A horizontal, powerful propeller of a tail has attached itself to the vertebral column. These adaptations blur the relationship that exists between whales and their closest living relatives”.


Why Phiomicetus Anubis?

The name Phiomicetus Anubis, according to Sallam, professor of paleontology at Mansoura University in Egypt, was chosen because it "has a strong and deadly bite", which corresponds with Anubis, the god of death in the ancient Egyptian civilization.

It is worth mentioning that the western desert in Egypt, in the area that is now Fayum governorate, was once covered by sea and is now a rich and valuable resource of fossils.