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Meet Melbourne's Sea Monster: Prehistoric Sperm Whale that Killed Other Whales Roamed Australia, Giant Fossil Reveals

May 16, 2016 03:08 AM EDT
Sperm Whale
The largest toothed whale and the largest toothed predator, the Sperm Whale (Physeter macrocephalus) or Cachalot stands at an average of 16 meters (52 ft) in length.
(Photo : Flickr/Creative Commons/Amila Tennakoon)

For the first time, a fossil of a giant sperm whale has been found outside America, and it is considerd as Melbourne's first-ever megawhale.

A 30-centimeter-tooth, almost twice the size of the tooth of today's sperm whale, was discovered by Murray Orr last February at the Beaumaris Bay, a site popular for housing ancient remains.

"For a moment it looked like an artillery shell, and I thought I might blow my arm off. But then I saw the curving pointed end and knew it was a sperm whale tooth." the fossil enthusiast told NY times.

Dr. Erich Fitzgerald, a paleontologist at Museum Victoria, after examining the tooth concluded that it was from an extinct group of marine behemoths called Livyatan melvillei.

Named after the biblical sea monster, Livyatan melvillei lived approximately 12 to 13 million years ago. Melvillei was chosen to give credit to Herman Melville,‭ ‬author of '"Moby Dick‭."

"With teeth that were thirty-six centimetres long,‭ ‬Livyatan had the dentition to take down large prey items.‭ ‬In fact not only were the teeth of Livyatan considerably larger than the largest shark's teeth,‭ ‬they are considered to be the largest known teeth for the purpose of eating," Prehistoric Wildlife notes.

Unlike the living sperm whale, which has no functional teeth and feeds by suction of squid and fish, the Livyatan melvillei, with its strong jaws are said to have hunted other whales and bigger predators.
In addition, Fitzgerald also found out that the tooth is missing the tip of the crown and some of the base root which means the tooth is from a whale which has not lived long.

Fitzgerald is looking forward to discovering more about the species like how it co-existed with other marine animals, how it survived in the ancient times and how it became extinct.

Orr donated the tooth to the museum last month for the purpose of research and scientific studies.

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