Fossils of "sea monster" sperm whale found in Peru

[1 July, 2010] In Peru scientists have discovered the fossil of a sperm whale with terrifyingly enormous teeth, believed to have lived in the Earth's oceans some 13 million years ago.

Discovered in 2008, the fossil's details were only revealed in this month's edition of the Nature journal. Similar in size to modern sperm whales, it's the teeth of the creature which make it quite remarkable.

From root to tip the tooth of the giant creature measures 14 inches (35cm), nearly twice as large as the teeth of modern sperm whales, resulting in one of the largest bites of any predator to have lived.

Named Leviathan Melvillei after Herman Melville, the author of Moby Dick, the whale is believed to have been a fearsome predator which was able to inflict deep wounds in its prey as well as tear large chunks of meat from other marine creatures - even other whales.

"This was probably one of the most powerful predators ever found," said the palaeontologist who led the study, Olivier Lambert, from the Natural History Museum in Paris. "I don't think such large teeth have ever been found before."

"It was a kind of a sea monster," adds Christian de Muizon, the Natural History Museum in Paris Director.

"And it's interesting to note that at the same time in the same waters was another monster, which was a giant shark about 15 metres long. It's possible that they might have fought each other."

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