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Planet Earth

A Toothy Predator of the Prehistoric Seas: Meet the Leviathan Whale

80beatsBy Joseph CalamiaJuly 1, 2010 1:26 AM

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Twelve million years ago, one sperm whale was king. Between 40 and 60 feet in length the beast scientists named

Leviathan melvillei

wasn't any bigger than today's sperm whales, but look at those teeth!

Leviathan_killing_whale1.jpg

As described in a paper published in Nature today, Olivier Lambert discovered the whale's fossils in a Peruvian desert. The creature's name says it all:

[It] combines the Hebrew word 'Livyatan', which refers to large mythological sea monsters, with the name of American novelist Herman Melville, who penned Moby-Dick — "one of my favourite sea books", says lead author Olivier Lambert of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris. [Nature News]

The prehistoric sperm whale may have eaten baleen whales, and its largest chompers are a foot long and some four inches wide. For all the details, check out Ed Yong's post on Not Exactly Rocket Science. Related content: 80beats: Lady Humpback Whales Make Friends & Meet up for Summer Reunions 80beats: Whales vs. Navy: NOAA May Limit Sonar Tests, but Another Case Heads to Court 80beats: Primitive Proto-Whales May Have Clambered Ashore to Give Birth 80beats: Update: International Whaling Deal Falls Apart 80beats: Is the Whaling Ban Really the Best Way to Save the Whales?Image: Nature

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