Shady Abdel Hafez
A joint Egyptian-American research team announced the discovery of a whale fossil of a previously unknown type, which lived in the Wadi Al-Hitan region in the Egyptian Fayoum Governorate southwest of Cairo.
What is distinctive about the discovery is that this whale represents a transitional stage between the whales that walked on two legs and those that swam in the water.
The researchers called the new whale "Aegicetus gehennae". According to their studies, it is believed that the whale lived 35 million years ago from now in the Valley of Whales, a site of exceptional natural history, containing a large number of high-quality fossils of whales that lived in this place when it was the bottom of a huge ocean, called the Sea of Teths.
In that period of the history of our planet there were only two continents, Lorasia in the north and our south in the south, and that was tens of millions of years before our appearance - we humans.
Primary whales of this species lived during a period spanning the mid-Eocene period, a geological era that began 56 million years ago and ended 33.9 million years ago, and is found in separate regions of Africa, Asia and the Americas.
According to the study, the newly discovered whale represents an important opportunity to understand how the primary whales managed to swim and walk on two legs, as its body contained a clear ripple in the back and tail vertebra as a tool to help swim, and feet to help walk, similar to the situation in crocodiles now.
|The University of Michigan paleontologist Philip Gingrich records information at Igecitus in 2007 (University of Michigan)|
From walking to swimming
The researchers see - according to the study, which was published in the Journal of Plus One on the evening of the current December 11th - that this ripple represents an important transitional stage to understand how the whales have moved from walking to the contemporary image, in which only they can swim.
Whereas, the primary whales, 47-41 million years ago, were swimming as well but using their feet. Then came whales such as Ijecitus Genah which swam more through the movement of their body and their tails, then the contemporary whales appeared. This hypothesis is also consistent with the dissection of the new whale, which possessed a more elongated and shorter body.
On the Egyptian side, Dr. Muhammad Sameh, Director of the Department of Geology and Excavations in the Nature Protection Sector of the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency, participated in the study, and he is interested in the Egyptian whale Valley area, which is rich in ancient fossils.