10. Whale Found in Egypt Desert
Kicking off our list of the most viewed National Geographic News photos of the year is one whale of a discovery.
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.
The 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 Society grantee.
Originally published April 2005
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Photograph courtesy Philip D. Gingerich