​Peru Whale-Eating Whale?

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July 1, 2010

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Whale-eating whale? Paleontologists now believe that there may be a creature attacking whales that’s actually another whale in Peru.

A massive whale skull and jaw of a 13-million-year-old sperm whale has been discovered eroding from the windblown sands of a coastal desert of Peru.

“We could see it from very far,” paleontologist Olivier Lambert said in a statement. He led the team which found the fossil. The whale had a giant 10 foot skull.

It has been dubbed Leviathan Melvillei, in honor of the author of “Moby Dick.” It’s teeth in its top and bottom jaws were up to up to 14 inches long. This discovery was reported in the July 1 issue of the journal Nature.

“Living sperm whales have teeth only in their lower jaws and are specialized to feed on giant squid,” Lambert explained. Squids are sucked down like large spaghetti noodles, opposed to them being caught with their teeth. However, these toothier fossil sperm whales may have eaten more like an outsized-orca, or killer whale.

“These are very unusual attributes,” cetacea evolution expert Ewan Fordyce, University of Otago in New Zealand, said in a statement. “It’s remarkably big. That is unexpected,” Fordyce added. “I think it’s a great advance. The fossil appears to also be a distant relative of today’s sperm whales, rather than a direct ancestor.”

“Many fossil sperm whales have been found in the past. Most have been much smaller than modern sperm whales,” Lambert stated. “There have also been discoveries of isolated large sperm whale teeth fossils before,” added Lambert. Those made it clear to researchers that there was a bigger animal out there waiting to be found. And now they have found it.