Scientists did not expect to find the fossil of an ancient, extinct species of whale known as the amphibious Phiomicetus anubis in Egypt's Western Desert.
The Anubis-like animal
The name given to the animal is largely due to its uncanny resemblance to Anubis—an ancient Egyptian god of the dead with the head of a jackal. Although the site in which it was found is now a desert, it was once covered by a sea, which has rendered it a rich source of many types of fossils. When it was still alive, this four-legged whale first developed its form from a deer-like land mammal almost 10 million years ago.
This type of whale was not only able to walk on land and swim in water, but it was estimated to weigh a staggering 600 kg as well as being three meters in length. With its strong jaws that it used to catch prey, this was one animal you definitely did not want to fall victim to.
A very important discovery
The researchers discovered part of the dead animal's skeleton in Egypt's Fayum Depression which was later transferred to Mansoura University to conduct further analysis. Abdullah Gohar, one of the researchers involved in the discovery, explained:
Phiomicetus anubis is a key new whale species, and a critical discovery for Egyptian and African palaeontology.
This is a monumental discovery, as it is the first time that a semiaquatic whale has been found in the African continent. However, it is not the first four-legged whale to have been discovered in recent times. In 2011, palaeontologists in Peru found a four-legged whale fossil with webbed feet and hooves that dates back to 43 million years.