A Toothy Predator of the Prehistoric Seas: Meet the Leviathan Whale

By Joseph Calamia | June 30, 2010 4:26 pm

Twelve million years ago, one sperm whale was king. Between 40 and 60 feet in length the beast scientists named Leviathan melvillei wasn’t any bigger than today’s sperm whales, but look at those teeth!


As described in a paper published in Nature today, Olivier Lambert discovered the whale’s fossils in a Peruvian desert. The creature’s name says it all:

[It] combines the Hebrew word ‘Livyatan’, which refers to large mythological sea monsters, with the name of American novelist Herman Melville, who penned Moby-Dick — “one of my favourite sea books”, says lead author Olivier Lambert of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris. [Nature News]

The prehistoric sperm whale may have eaten baleen whales, and its largest chompers are a foot long and some four inches wide. For all the details, check out Ed Yong’s post on Not Exactly Rocket Science.

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Image: Nature

  • Jumblepudding

    I was hoping that the creature in that overly enthusiastic artist’s rendering was a full grown blue whale, making Leviathan…well, an animal of biblical proportions.

  • http://yahoo bruce de leon

    incredible! I knew all along there was a cetacen whose ways were beyond benign. i am not surprised but relieved that a creature of this magnatude was finally found. Imagine this eating sharks too! if this fella was around today the ocean wouldn’t be a safe place. if he does exist in a crypto way don’t look for him. this thing is all for the scientist and not a fantasy we like to see in the sea. now the reality bites!

  • m

    Hmmm….seems to me this article is a bit anemic. What methodology was used to classify it as a whale? Any working theories on why the teeth evolved away? When was it first discovered and when was it first identified as a whale fossil? Where there others nearby? Is there a working theory to try to identify its habitable range and search for other fossils?

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/80beats/ Eliza Strickland


    Since another DISCOVER blogger, Ed Yong of Not Exactly Rocket Science, covered this story we didn’t do a full write-up here. Head over to Ed’s post for more details.

    Eliza, DISCOVER online news editor

  • http://przyroda.internet24h.bialystok.pl/e/Fotografia-slubna-Katowice,12842 Fotografia slubna Katowice

    I enjoy what you guys are up too. This sort of clever work and reporting! Keep up the fantastic works guys I’ve included you guys to my blogroll.

  • http://www.spielegarten.com spiele

    I was hoping that the creature in that overly enthusiastic artist’s rendering was a full grown blue whale, making Leviathan…well, an animal of biblical proportions.


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