A team of researchers and fossil hunters who recovered the remains to an ancient sperm whale in the Pisco-Lca desert in Peru in 2008 have now released the details of their discovery. The whale, which is thought to have lived between 12-13 million years ago had a skull 3 meters long with teeth in its upper and lower jaw that grew to an astounding 36 cm in length.
Boasted to be one of the top predators that has ever lived, the beast, named Leviathan melvillei after Moby Dick, is considered to have one of the largest bites known to mankind.
"This sperm whale could firmly hold large prey with its interlocking teeth, inflict deep wounds and tear large pieces from the body of the victim," the researchers write in the journal Nature (vol 466, p 105).
The team responsible for the remarkable discovery consisted of researchers from Utrecht University in the Netherlands and the natural museums of Rotterdam, Pisa, Lima and Brussels. They believe the ancient whale was between 13.5-17.5 meters in length, similar to modern sperm whales.
Oliver Lambert, a palaeontologist at the Natural History Museum in Paris was a leader in the study. He believes that the the sperm whale fossil is "probably one of the most powerful predators" that has ever been found. "This new specimen should give us additional information about the past diversity of sperm whales." said Lambert.
The fossil will join a collection at the Natural History Museum in Lima, Peru.
Artistic view by the Paris-based Museum national d'histoire naturelle of the giant raptorial sperm whale Leviathan melvillei attacking a medium-size baleen whale. Photo: AFP