Scientists discover fossil of a 4-legged whale with a raptor-like eating style

A group of scientists have discovered a fossil of a now-extinct whale with four legs. This visual reconstruction shows Phiomicetus anubis preying on a sawfish. (Robert W. Boessenecker)

We regret to inform you that your nightmares are about to get worse.

A team led by Egyptian scientists have dug up a 43 million-year-old fossil in the Sahara Desert in Egypt of a now-extinct amphibious four-legged whale.

That’s right, folks — a whale with legs.

The authors of the study say that this creature had “unique features of the skull” and that its “mandible suggest a capacity for more efficient oral mechanical processing.”

In other words, these walking whales had a “strong raptorial feeding style.”

“We discovered how fierce and deadly its powerful jaws are capable of tearing a wide range of prey … this whale was a god of death to most of the animals that lived in its area,” Abdullah Gohar, one of the scientists, told Insider.

The new whale is called Phiomicetus anubis, which the scientists named in part after Anubis, the canine-headed Egyptian god associated with mummification and the afterlife. It was likely a top predator at the time, similar to what a killer whale is today.

Study authors Mohamed Sameh (from left), Abdullah Gohar and Hesham Sallam surround the holotype fossils of the new whale, Phiomicetus anubis, at Mansoura University Vertebrate Paleontology center.
(Abdullah Gohar)

Whales, it turns out, used to be “herbivorous, deer-like terrestrial mammals,” the scientists write. Over the span of about 10 million years, whales turned into carnivorous creatures in the ocean. The discovery of the four-legged creature is part of that evolution.

So, a whale with legs and massive head with a vicious eating style.

Good luck sleeping tonight.

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