37 Million Year Old Giant Catfish Fossil Found in Egyptian Desert

37 Million Year Old Giant Catfish Fossil Found in Egyptian Desert

A new species of ancient animal plucked from the sands of Egypt is offering insight into the evolution of one of the most recognisable aquatic groups on Earth: the humble catfish.

Unearthed in Wadi Al-Hitan, a dramatic, forbidding desert south-west of Cairo, the fossil catfish has been named Qarmoutus hitanensis, and it would have lived roughly 37 million years ago.

At about 2 meters long, the creature would have been on the upper end of the catfish size scale, coming close to modern-day behemoths like the Mekong giant catfish in Southeast Asia and the Wels catfish in Europe. (At the opposite end of that scale is the tiny parasitic candiru, which is infamous for legends that it can wiggle its way inside people via some uncomfortable places.)

But even though it would be hefty by today’s standards, the Eocene-era creature was just a pint-sized swimmer compared to the valley’s most famous denizens.

The arid landscape of Wadi Al-Hitan, which means Valley of the Whales, was once submerged beneath a vast ocean. Among its wind-sculpted sandstone buttes and cliffs, scientists have unearthed a treasure trove of prehistoric whale bones.

Hundreds of fossils catch these ancient whales in the act of losing their land-legs and entering the sea. Also buried among them are sharks, crocodiles, rays, turtles, and other seafaring creatures.

Read more: http://www.nationalgeographic.com.au/history/giant-catfish-fossil-found-in-egyptian-desert.aspx

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