Sun 12 September 2021:
Scientists have uncovered a 43 million-year-old fossil of a previously unknown four-legged whale species that helps in the study of whale migration from land to sea.
According to the researchers, the newly discovered amphibious whale belongs to the Protocetidae family of extinct whales, which is in the middle of that transition.
Its fossil was discovered in the middle Eocene strata of Egypt’s Western Desert, an area that was formerly covered by sea and has produced plenty of findings documenting whale evolution. It was then investigated at the Vertebrate Palaeontology Centre at Mansoura University (MUVP).
The whale, Phiomicetus anubis, was a top predator with an estimated body length of roughly three meters and a mass of about 600 kilograms. Its incomplete skeleton revealed that it was Africa’s most primitive protocetid whale.
“Phiomicetus anubis is a key new whale species, and a critical discovery for Egyptian and African paleontology,” said Abdullah Gohar of MUVP, lead author of the paper published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
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According to the researchers, despite recent fossil finds, the big picture of early whale evolution in Africa has largely remained a mystery. More research in the area has the potential to disclose new information regarding the evolution of amphibious whales into fully aquatic whales.
The discovery of the new whale has sparked debate over past ecosystems, as well as studies into the origins and coexistence of ancient whales in Egypt.
Are whales endangered?
Whales are at the top of the food chain, and they are vital to the health of our seas. They are particularly important for capturing carbon from the atmosphere.
During its lives, each whale sequesters a significant amount of CO2. They are crucial in addressing the climate catastrophe because they store tons of carbon dioxide in their bodies.
Six of the 13 great whale species, however, are listed as endangered or vulnerable by the WWF.
Habitat degradation, pollution, climate and ecosystem change, whale watching disturbance, industrial noise, illegal whaling, decreasing prey quantity owing to overfishing, and oil spills are all threats.
It’s critical that we maintain a strong, active population of these top predators, because if whales are endangered, it’s terrible news for everyone.
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