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The discovery of a primitive whale from Morocco, dating back 40 million years

Modern whales are distinguished by their streamlined bodies and fins that enable them to swim like fish, but they still retain the characteristics of mammals.

Several evidences say that whales have a long history in their evolutionary history, extending back to millions of years, so that ancient cetaceans (the taxonomic group to which whales belong) moved from being a wild being walking on four to modern whales that roam with skilful swimming in the oceans of the current era, dramatic differences in body and behavior It made it able to inhabit the life of the seas, and between life on land and in the water, there are many transitional stages that scientists are still trying to fathom.

New Maghreb whale anthases

According to the results of a recent research paper published in PLOS ONE magazine, scientists found a skull and a partial skeleton of a new species and genus of whales that lived in Morocco about 40 million years ago. They called it Antaecetus. The name goes back to ancient Greek mythology. As (Antai) – the first part of the name – refers to the son of a half-giant, whose parents are the sea god Poseidon, and the earth goddess Gaia; As for the second part of the name, “Sets,” it means “whale” in Latin.

The results of the study show that this whale is considered a transitional stage between the oldest and most modern whales, which made the researchers place it in a new family called “Pakistinia”, which includes the new whale and other whales from Africa, America and Europe, and the researchers suggest that this new species lived lifestyles similar to manatees. It is also worth noting that such whales have been discovered before in Egyptian sediments, Philip Gingrich, a paleontologist at the University of Michigan, the first to theorize about the evolution of whales, and the lead author of the paper, told For Science.

“The geographical spread of Pakistinea whales in late Eocene sediments in Europe, North America and North Africa surprised me,” says Gingrich. His definition is now from Morocco, explaining that it is also strange that Anacitus also traces his knowledge back to excavations discovered in the Mokattam Mountains in Egypt, more than 100 years ago.

In this regard, Abdullah Gohar, a researcher with the Salam-Lab team at Mansoura University in Egypt, said in his interview with “For Science”: “The research presents almost complete samples of the vertebrae and skull, which helps highlight new characteristics that distinguished ancient whales.”

How did whales inhabit the seas?

Modern whales are characterized by their streamlined bodies and fins that qualify them to swim like fish, but they still retain their characteristics as a group of mammals. About 50 million years ago, a group of living animals that lived on land began to spend their time along the banks of the beaches, allowing them to quickly dive into the water to avoid any dangers, and with the passage of time, they decided to spend more of their lives in shallow waters, until it ended Ending up with a complete aquatic life that they could not live without, the bodies of the ancient whale ancestors began to adapt to the new environment. As their front legs turned into flippers, and their hind legs shrank in size, their tails became larger and stronger to support swimming, but just before the date of this development, a family of ancient whales known as the Basilosauridae arose, including the famous Fayoum whale “Basilosaurus Isis”.

Basilosaurids were the first cetaceans to live fully aquatic lifestyles, but they still preserved their limbs. The new family Pakistinia falls within the family of basilosaurs, but it has some distinguishing characteristics from the rest of the basilosaurids, which sparked the attention of scientists to reconsider the nature of the life of basilosaurs in general, he says. Johar: “The research provides new anatomical and biological characteristics for this group of whales, which contributes to understanding the biodiversity of whales in general and basilosaurids in particular.”

Whales are like mermaids

Whales and mermaids have an aquatic lifestyle unlike other mammals, and although the current whales have developed their ability to swim in a way that is not at all comparable to mermaids, the old whales – especially the new family – almost move slowly under the water with mermaid-like movements; Some of the newly discovered anatomical features of the New Maghrib whale, such as very dense, dense bones, have caused it to lose its ability to maneuver to chase prey.



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