Posted by: The ocean update | June 4, 2015

Fossils reveal a whale inside a whale, eaten by a shark : Grave of 40-million-year-old marine creatures found in Egypt 

An 40 million-year-old early whale has been discovered in Wadi al-Hitan, Egypt. The fossils (pictured) suggest the creature - the largest Basilosaurus, which is a genus of early whale - may have eaten another of its kind, before becoming lunch for a shark

An 40 million-year-old early whale has been discovered in Wadi al-Hitan, Egypt. The fossils (pictured) suggest the creature – the largest Basilosaurus, which is a genus of early whale – may have eaten another of its kind, before becoming lunch for a shark

June 4th, 2015 (Sarah Griffiths). A 40 million-year-old early whale has been discovered in Wadi al-Hitan, Egypt, known as the Valley of Whales.

And fossils suggest the vast creature – known as Basilosaurus – is a genus of early whale and may have eaten another of its kind, before becoming lunch for a shark.

The remains are enabling scientists to explore the food chain of this time, with fossils of crabs and sawfish found inside the whale, as well as the small whale bones.

It is likely the small whale bones belong to a foetus, but the researchers have not ruled out the larger whale eating the smaller one.

Wadi al-Hitan was first discovered by scientists in 1902 and since then, 10 fossilised whales have been found in the marine fossil ‘graveyard’ in Fayoum, Atlas Obscura reported.

Fossils of ancient crocodiles and turtles have also been unearthed at the Unesco World Heritage Site, helping experts shed light on the evolution of marine species.

Dr Khaled Fahmy, Minister of Environment confirmed the 60 ft (18 metre) long Basilosaurus fossil has been found, including the small vertebrae in the tail,

This makes it the only complete skeleton of the creature in the world.

A team of excavators found the remains of crabs and sawfish inside the whale as well as another smaller whale skeleton.

They are unsure whether the smaller whale was a meal or a foetus.

A collection of shark teeth nearby hint that the whale’s carcass was then eaten by sharks after it died.

Basilosaurus, meaning lizard king, lived between 40 and 34 million years ago and was thought to be a reptile when it was first found.

It had a smaller brain than modern whales, meaning the creature probably didn’t have modern cetacean’s social capabilities.

Another difference to modern whales was the creature’s eel-like body.

Vertebrae filled with marrow point to the creature swimming at the sea’s surface in a way dissimilar to the whales we know, which dive and spend a lot of time beneath the waves.

Wear and tear on Basilosaurus teeth hint that it chewed food before swallowing and was capable of crushing a skull with a force of more than 3,527 lbs (1,600 kg).

It’s thought the creature feasted on fish and sharks.

Dr Fahmy said a museum will soon open in Fayoum, showcasing fossils found in the valley, Youm7.com reported.

FOSSILS REVEAL WHALES USED ‘SOUND TO SEE’ 31 MILLION YEARS AGO

A study released last year suggests an ancient whale used sonar to find food 28 million years ago.

The whale species Cotylocara macei, was found to have air pockets in its skull that had similarities to those used by modern day porpoises and dolphins to send out focused sound beams.

The discovery places the evolution of the technique, called echolocation, to around 32 million years ago

That was relatively soon after whales, around 35 million years ago, split into two major cetacean groups – toothed whales that were active hunters and toothless baleen whales that were filter feeders, straining food like krill from the ocean.

Jonathan Geisler, an anatomy professor at New York Institute of Technology who led the research published in the journal Nature, called echolocation ‘an amazing trait.’

‘It’s a sonar-like system which allows them basically to navigate and find food, particularly in waters where there’s little light, either at great depth or in very turbulent waters with a lot of mud, like estuaries or around marshes,’ he added.

Cotylocara, whose fossilised remains include a 22-inch skull, neck vertebrae and ribs, was about 10 to 11 feet long and probably swam in a shallow ocean environment, feeding on fish and squid.

The fossils were unearthed near Summerville, South Carolina, outside Charleston.

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