Crazy Fossil Find: Whale Inside a Whale, Eaten by Shark

giant-whale
The huge Basilosaurus fossil, a whale within a whale, eaten by sharks. Egypt Ministry of Environment

The ancient whale Basilosaurus grew up to 65 feet long and ate just about everything. They were prodigious bone-crunchers, even known to chomp upon other whales. But it still came as a shock for fossil hunters to find the skeleton of a smaller whale inside a Basilosaurus in Wadi al-Hitan, Egypt, a UNESCO World Heritage site also referred to as “Whale Valley.” 

It gets weirder, though: Scientists think that the whale-containing Basilosaurus was in turn eaten by a huge shark (or several).

The paleontologists found shark teeth near the two whales, and they hypothesize that one or several sharks ate the whale (duo) after they had already died, The Huffington Post reports.

Writer Brian Switek notes in National Geographic that Basilosaurus likely used its front teeth to grab large prey, exerting 2,300 pounds of force. “With prey in place, Basilosaurus could then toss it back further along the jaw for a deadly shear bite. Crocodylians sometimes do the same with turtles and other hard-shelled prey, nabbing them with pointed teeth before obliterating their victims’ defenses with a back-tooth bite,” he writes.

This particular Basilosaurus, stretching to 60 feet in length, is the largest ever found, The Cairo Post reports. Besides the whale, scientists found sawfish and crab fossils in what was likely its stomach.