Scientists have discovered a 43-million-year-old fossil of an ancient four-legged whale that was amphibious, meaning it could live on land and in the sea. The now-extinct species was named "Phiomectus Anubis" after Anubis, the Egyptian deity of death.
According to results published Wednesday in the peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, this ancient species was previously unknown to scientists, yet it is part of a group of semiaquatic whales known as protocetids that lived during the Eocene epoch. Because protocetids could swim, they represent a unique phase in whale evolution that is still completely unknown.
However, the study's authors think that the newly found fossil explains how whales evolved from terrestrial inhabitants to the oceanic species we know today.
"All known protocetid whales had well-developed, non-reduced fore and hind limbs that could bear the animals' weight outside of water, although awkwardly, as these species were presumably rather heavy," said co-author Robert W. Boessenecker to HuffPost. "Take, for example, seals and sea lions."
According to the study, what distinguishes this four-legged species from other protocetid whales is its extremely deadly, jackal-like mouth, which allowed it to have a "raptorial eating style." As a result, the species was dubbed "Phiomectus Anubis" after Anubis, the jackal-headed Egyptian deity of death, by the researchers that studied the fossil at Mansoura University.
According to Abdullah Gohar, the paper's primary author, "we learned how vicious and lethal its strong teeth are capable of ripping a wide spectrum of prey... this whale was a god of death to most of the creatures that resided in its region."
Despite how scary this voracious king of death sounds, the article claims it is just a "medium-sized" protocetid, measuring around 10 feet long and weighing roughly 1,300 pounds.
The fossil was discovered in Egypt's Western Desert's Fayum Depression, which was previously buried underwater. In the early 1900s, German paleontologist Eberhard Fraas found some of the earliest protocetids in the area, and many more have subsequently been unearthed.
Golden Age of Dinosaur Research
The finest time in history for dinosaur study is right now. People are discovering more dinosaurs than ever before: around 50 new species are found each year, which is fantastic. A new species emerges every week-an entirely new species, not a new bone or skeleton.
Employing New Technology
New technology is proving to be quite beneficial. CAT scanning, which can be used to examine inside dinosaur skulls, is probably the finest illustration of this. The brain, sensory organs, sinuses, blood arteries, and nerves buried inside T. rex's skull have now been disclosed. In addition, paleontologists can create computer reconstructions of the dinosaur's brain, which indicates that it was rather big. It had a brain size comparable to chimps, suggesting that it was a clever animal, far smarter than most people believe.
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