Illustration by C. Letenneur, Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France
Evoking the poster for the original summer blockbuster, a new species of killer sperm whale attacks a baleen whale in an illustration.
Dubbed Leviathan melvillei—an homage to Moby-Dick author Herman Melville—the recently unearthed fossil sea monster lived about 13 million years ago in waters atop what’s now a Peruvian desert, according to a study published by the journal Nature on Wednesday.
Living alongside the largest sharks ever known, the raptorial—meaning actively hunting—whale measured about 60 feet (18 meters) in length, about as big as a modern male sperm whale.
But whereas modern sperm whales feed primarily on squid, Leviathan’s large teeth—some of which measured more than a foot (36 centimeters) long—suggest the whale hunted more challenging prey, including perhaps its close whale relatives.
“It was probably a very powerful and frightening animal, so it fits well with the description Melville made of Moby-Dick,” said lead study author Olivier Lambert, a paleontologist at the National Museum of Natural History in Paris.
(Related picture: “Whale Found in Egypt Desert.”)
Published June 30, 2010