Kicking off our list of the
most viewed National Geographic News photos of the year is one whale of
Egypt may not be the first place you'd look
for whales, but once upon a time the Wadi Hitan desert was underwater
and teeming with the sea giants.
In April geologist Philip D.
Gingerich announced his team had excavated the first known nearly
complete skeleton of a Basilosaurus isis (pictured). The 50-foot-
long (18-meter-long), 40-million-year-old fossil was shipped to
Michigan, where experts are preserving it. Later they will return the
fossil to Egypt along with a complete cast of the skeleton.
first of the truly gigantic whales, Basilosaurus had the
serpentine shape of a sea monster and short, sharp teeth for hunting
sharks and other prey. Unlike today's whales, it had no
blowholethe ancient behemoth had to raise its head above water to
breathe. What's more, Basilosaurus still had the feet it
inherited from its land-dwelling ancestors, according to Gingerich, who
works for the University of Michigan and is a National Geographic