Aegicetus gehennae, a new late Eocene protocetid (Cetacea, Archaeoceti) from Wadi Al Hitan, Egypt, and the transition to tail-powered swimming in whales

Autoři: Philip D. Gingerich aff001;  Mohammed Sameh M. Antar aff002;  Iyad S. Zalmout aff001
Působiště autorů: Museum of Paleontology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States of America aff001;  Department of Geology and Paleontology, Nature Conservation Sector, Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency, Cairo, Egypt aff002;  Department of Paleontology, Saudi Geological Survey, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia aff003
Vyšlo v časopise: PLoS ONE 14(12)
Kategorie: Research Article


Aegicetus gehennae is a new African protocetid whale based on a partial skull with much of an associated postcranial skeleton. The type specimen, Egyptian Geological Museum, Cairo [CGM] 60584, was found near the base of the early-Priabonian-age (earliest late Eocene) Gehannam Formation of the Wadi Al Hitan World Heritage Site in Egypt. The cranium is distinctive in having ventrally-deflected exoccipitals. The vertebral column is complete from cervical C1 through caudal Ca9, with a vertebral formula of 7:15:4:4:9+, representing, respectively, the number of cervical, thoracic, lumbar, sacral, and caudal vertebrae. CGM 60584 has two more rib-bearing thoracic vertebrae than other known protocetids, and two fewer lumbars. Sacral centra are unfused, and there is no defined auricular surface on the ilium. Thus there was no weight-bearing sacroiliac joint. The sternum is distinctive in being exceptionally broad and flat. The body weight of CGM 60584, a putative male, is estimated to have been about 890 kg in life. Long bones of the fore and hind limbs are shorter than expected for a protocetid of this size. Bones of the manus are similar in length and more robust compared to those of the pes. A log vertebral length profile for CGM 60584 parallels that of middle Eocene Maiacetus inuus through the anterior and middle thorax, but more posterior vertebrae are proportionally longer. Vertebral elongation, loss of a sacroiliac articulation, and hind limb reduction indicate that Aegicetus gehennae was more fully aquatic and less specialized as a foot-powered swimmer than earlier protocetids. It is doubtful that A. gehennae had a tail fluke, and the caudal flattening known for basilosaurids is shorter relative to vertebral column length than flattening associated with a fluke in any modern whale. Late protocetids and basilosaurids had relatively long skeletons, longer than those known earlier and later, and the middle-to-late Eocene transition from foot-powered to tail-powered swimming seemingly involved some form of mid-body-and-tail undulation.

Klíčová slova:

Body limbs – Eocene epoch – Ribs – Spine – Swimming – Tails – Vertebrae


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