“The Legacy of Egypt’s ‘Walking Whales’: Fossil Discoveries in the Desert Unveil Ancient Marine Mammals from 37 Million Years Ago”

The arid deserts of Egypt are not the most likely places to find whales. But dozens of fossilized remains of prehistoric ancestors of the giant sea mammals have emerged from the shifting sands of the Egyptian Sahara.

Among them is an intact 37 million-year-old skeleton of a legged form of whale that measures more than 65 feet (20 meters) long.

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Dozens of fossilized whale bones have emerged from the Wadi Al-Hitan in the Egyptian desert (pictured) and formed the centerpiece of a new museum that has opened. Among them is an intact 37-million-year-old skeleton of a legged form of whale that measures more than 65 feet (20 meters) long.

The fossils are providing scientists with new insights into how modern-day whales evolved from land mammals.

Officials have now officially opened a $2.17 billion (£1.5 billion) museum in the Valley of the Whales, which is known as Wadi Al-Hitan.

The area was once covered by a vast prehistoric ocean that has since vanished as sea levels have fallen and landscapes have moved.

To protect many of the fossils, they have been covered in a sand-colored dome-shaped building that forms the museum.

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The largest intact Basilosaurus isis whale fossil – an early formed of ‘legged whale’ – is one of the key attractions at the new Fossils and Climate Change Museum in Egypt’s Valley of the Whales

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The largest intact Basilosaurus isis whale fossil was discovered in the shifting sands of the Egyptian desert. The $2.17 billion (£1.5 billion) museum was built around the fossils to help protect and preserve them.

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A visitor views the largest intact Basilosaurus isis whale fossil (pictured), which is on display at the Wadi El Hitan Fossils and Climate Change Museum on the opening day. The fossils have proved invaluable to paleontologists as they try to piece together the evolutionary history of modern-day sea mammals.

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The giant fossil is one of the most complete Basilosaurus isis whale fossils to have been found. The species has earned the name ‘walking whale’ due to leg-like limbs that are thought to have been a key evolutionary stage as whales evolved from land mammals.

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Egyptian Army soldiers stand guard outside the Wati El Hitan Fossils and Climate Change Museum, a UNESCO natural World Heritage site (pictured). The Egyptian authorities are hoping the new museum may help to reinvigorate the country’s struggling tourism industry.

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The sand-colored, dome-shaped museum is barely discernible in the breathtaking desert landscape that stretches all around (pictured).

The fossilized whales in the desert include the large Basilosaurus and the smaller Dorudon. They are both thought to be early species of whale that help to chart how they evolved.

But Environment Minister Khaled Fahmy cautioned against interpreting the museum’s opening as a “full endorsement of the theory of evolution,” which conflicts with Islam.

“That is an entirely different matter,” he said. “We are still tied to our Islamic belief system.”

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Architects designed the museum to blend into the surrounding desert, but it is also hoped it will help to protect the rare fossils.

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