Scientists have uncovered what amounts to an ancient turducken in Egypt, documenting the fossilized remains of a whale inside of another whale, which was then eaten by sharks.
The discovery was made in a region known as the Valley of Whales, according to the Huffington Post. A 40-million-year-old, 60-foot-long basilosaurus was discovered, with the fossilized remains of another whale within it. The smaller whale may have been a fetus, yet researchers note that it could also have been a meal, as the basilosaurus is thought to have attacked and consumed other whales. Its powerful jaws would have been capable of crushing the skull of any unfortunate smaller whale that it encountered. The two whales were also found surrounded by shark’s teeth, leading researchers to assert that the pair ended up as a meal for the ancient predators, possibly after the basilosaurus died.
— Daily Mail Online (@MailOnline) June 4, 2015
The Valley of Whales is a UNESCO world heritage site, located southwest of Cairo, and otherwise known as Wadi al-Hitan. As the Daily Mail points out, Wadi al-Hitan was first discovered in 1901, and since then has yielded no less than 10 fossilized whale specimens. The remains of ancient turtles and crocodiles have also been uncovered at the site, adding to scientists’ contemporary understanding of the prehistoric ecosystem. In addition to the bones of the smaller whale, researchers also uncovered the remains of sawfish and crabs within the basilosaurus, revealing much about its diet and the ancient food chain.
— The Cairo Post (@TheCairoPost) June 2, 2015
Aside from containing the remains of the smaller whale, the basilosaurus is unique in another way. The specimen represents the only complete skeleton of the ancient whale in the world. First discovered by naturalist Richard Harlan in the 1830s, the basilosaurus was originally thought to be a land-dwelling dinosaur before paleontologists realized it was an ancient whale.
— DianeN56 (@DianeN56) June 4, 2015
While unusual, the fossils aren’t the only remains of an prehistoric predator to make headlines recently. Last week, a new species of ancient shark was reported, as the Inquisitr previously noted, after its fossilized vertebrae were uncovered several years ago.
The Valley of Whales is unique, as it is also known to contain the rare fossils of Archaeoceti, a sub-group of ancient whales. Their remains are unusual, in that they demonstrate the transitional evolutionary phase that brought whales into the ocean from their previous existence as land-based mammals.
A museum is reportedly set to open soon in Fayoum, showcasing some of the fossils from the Valley of Whales. It is unknown whether the basilosaurus, with the smaller whale inside, will go on display there.
[Photo by Egypt’s Ministry of Environment, via Facebook]