The whale fossil includes a skull, jaw, teeth and fragments of vertebrae, the researchers said. The mammal was about 8 feet long and weighed 187 kg. Scientists have identified a new species of ancient miniature whale that lived about 41 million years ago.
The miniature whale is named Tutcetus rayanensis after the ancient Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun and is the smallest ancient marine mammal to have ever existed, ABC News reported. It further states that the fossilized remains of the animal were found in 2012 embedded in limestone rock in Egypt’s Fayum Basin, about 113 kilometers southwest of the capital, Cairo.
A study on the discovery was published in Communications Biology. The whale fossil includes a skull, jaw, teeth and fragments of vertebrae, the researchers said.
“Tutcetus is the ancestor of all modern species of dolphins and whales,” Hesham Sallam, lead author and paleontologist at Mansour University and the American University in Cairo.
The mammal was about 8 feet long and weighed 187 kg.
Explaining why the fish was so small, Abdullah Gohar, a PhD student in palaeontology at Mansour University, said Tutcetus may have evolved in response to warming that occurred about 42 million years ago. Its skull is about five times smaller than that of other basilosaurids, the co-author added.
The study revealed that the whale must have been close to adulthood because the bones in its skull and vertebrae had fused and its permanent teeth were in an advanced stage of formation.
The fossil was assigned to a basilosaurid based on the presence of multiple accessory cusps on the cheek teeth and well-developed pterygoid cavities around the auditory region, the researchers said in the study.