A Whale Inside A Whale, That Was Eaten By A Shark, Discovered In Egypt

06/09/2015 06:24 am ET | Updated Jun 09, 2015

It's like a prehistoric turducken, but on a colossal scale: Scientists in Egypt have discovered the remains of a 40 million-year-old whale with another whale inside it, and researchers believe the two were then eaten by sharks.

The smaller whale found inside the fossils of the 60-foot-long basilosaurus may have been a fetus. However, basilosaurus had some pretty unusual dining habits. Like today's orcas, this fierce and ancient predator was known to eat other whales, so the whale inside might not have been a fetus so much as a meal. National Geographic reports that basilosaurus had such powerful jaws that it could crush the skull of any whale unlucky enough to get near its mouth.

The fossils were found at Wadi al-Hitan, a UNESCO World Heritage site also known as "Whale Valley" located in the desert to the southwest of Cairo.

Environment Minister Khaled Fahmy said the fossils include the smallest vertebras of the tail, making it the only complete basilosaurus skeleton in the world, per the Cairo Post.

The ministry released a series of images of the fossils on Facebook:

The latest discovery in Egypt shows that the 60-foot-long whale had eaten crabs and sawfish along with possibly that other whale, the Cairo Post reported. Since shark teeth where found around the whale, scientists believe it was eventually eaten by sharks, probably after it died.

Basilosaurus was thought to have been a marine reptile when first discovered by naturalist Richard Harlan in the 1830s, according to Drexel University. As a result, he gave it the name, which means "ruling lizard."

Only later did scientists realize it was a marine mammal; by then, basilosaurus was stuck with the name.

The fossilized remains of at least 10 whales have been found at Whale Valley since it was first discovered in 1902. UNESCO says Whale Valley contains the remains of the long-extinct suborder of whales known as Archaeoceti, which show the evolution of the whale from a land-based animal into an ocean-going mammal:

"This is the most important site in the world for the demonstration of this stage of evolution. It portrays vividly the form and life of these whales during their transition. The number, concentration and quality of such fossils here is unique, as is their accessibility and setting in an attractive and protected landscape. The fossils of Al-Hitan show the youngest archaeocetes, in the last stages of losing their hind limbs. Other fossil material in the site makes it possible to reconstruct the surrounding environmental and ecological conditions of the time."

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