Scientists Find Fossil of 'Sea Monster'

Ancient 56-foot whale had huge teeth, carnivorous appetite
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 30, 2010 5:48 PM CDT
This artists' rendering provided by the journal Nature shows a raptorial sperm whale Leviathan melvillei attacking a medium-size baleen whale off the coast of the area now occupied by Peru.    (AP Photo/Nature, C. Letenneur)

(Newser) – Scientists have found a fossil of a giant whale of lore—a "Leviathan" as the researchers named it. The creature was similar in size to today's sperm whale but nowhere near as passive, with massive teeth and jaws, the BBC reports. The 12-million-year-old, 56-foot-long beast likely hunted other sea mammals like dolphins, seals, and smaller whales. Its fossilized skull was found in southern Peru. "It was a kind of a sea monster," says the director of the Natural History Museum in Paris.

"And it's interesting to note that at the same time in the same waters was another monster, which was a giant shark about 50 feet long," says the director. "It's possible that they might have fought each other." Because Leviathan has been the stuff of legend for centuries, the scientists who found it gave honor to Herman Melville, the creator of Moby Dick. The whale's full scientific name is Leviathan melvillei.

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