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FOUND: An Ancient Whale Fossil With a Smaller Whale Inside


The Valley of Whales (Photo: Egypt’s Ministry of Environment Official Facebook page

In Egypt’s Valley of Whales—Wadi al-Hitan—the fossils of giant, ancient whales have sat for millions of years; they were first discovered by scientists in 1902.  Since then, there have been 10 fossilized whales found in the area, according to the Cairo Post. But on Tuesday, Egypt’s Minister of Environment announced that a new fossil had been found—a 60-foot-long basilosaurus, a type of early whale, complete down to the relatively tiny vertebrae of the tail, that’s estimated to be 40 million years old.

The fossil was uncovered by an Egyptian research team, and, along with the fossil, they found the remains of crabs and sawfish inside the whale, along with smaller whale. (It’s not clear whether the smaller whale was a fetus or a meal.) Nearby were a collection of sharks’ teeth, indicating that the whale’s carcass was consumed by sharks after it died.

Wadi al-Hitan was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site a decade ago — archaeologists have also found fossils of crocodiles and turtles there, giving them clues to the evolution of marine life.

Bonus finds: a 17th century noblewoman with her shoes still on, Australia’s first natural sea pearl, an amphibian that hasn’t been seen by scientists in 50 years

Every day, we highlight one newly lost or found object, curiosity or wonder. Discover something unusual or amazing? Tell us about it! Send your finds to sarah.laskow@atlasobscura.com.