Wednesday, August 11, 2010

August 11, 2010 : Leviathan Melvillei (Extinct)

Leviathan Melvillei

Leviathan melvillei is an extinct species of physeteroid whale, which lived during the Miocene epoch.

In November 2008, fossil remains of Leviathan melvillei were discovered in the sediments of Pisco formation at Cerro Colorado, 35 km south-southwest of Ica, Peru. The remains include a partially preserved skull with teeth and mandible. Rotterdam Natural History Museum researcher Klaas Post stumbled across them on the final day of a field trip there in November 2008. Post was part of an international team of researchers, led by Dr Christian de Muizon, director of the Natural History Museum in Paris, and included other palaeontologists from Utrecht University and the natural history museums of Rotterdam, Pisa, Lima and Brussels.

The fossils have been dated at 12–13 million years old and were prepared in Lima, Peru, and are now part of the collection of the Natural History Museum there.

The skull of Leviathan melvillei is 3 metres (10 ft) long. Unlike the modern sperm whale, Physeter macrocephalus, L. melvillei had functional dentition in both of its upper and lower jaws. The jaws of L. melvillei were robust and its temporal fossa was also considerably larger than in the modern-age sperm whale. L. melvillei is one of the largest raptorial predators yet known, with whale experts using the phrase "the biggest tetrapod bite ever found" to explain their find. The teeth of L. melvillei are up to 36 centimetres (1.18 ft) long and are claimed to be the largest of any animal yet known. Larger 'teeth' (tusks) are known - walrus and elephant tusks, for example - but these are not used directly in eating (although, for example, walruses use their teeth to dredge shellfish, before eating them).

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