So are you going to tell us about the giant hyperpredatory sperm whales or do I have to go google some nightmares myself?
we’re all familiar with the Sperm Whale of our modern seas, largest of the Toothed Whales! it’s also completely specialized for eating squid and squid ONLY, a comfort to anyone who’s ever managed to get just a bit too close to those enormous razor jaws.
but this was very much not always the case! the earlier members of the Sperm Whale lineage were much less… discerning.
early Sperm Whales all resembled our friendly modern swimming school bus to some degree, but the main difference was in the jaws- early Sperm Whales like Acrophyseter and Zygophyseter all had wide, powerful jaws with ENORMOUS teeth suitable for snacking on fish, dolphins, aquatic sloths, and pretty much anything else they could fit down their enormous gullets, kind of like a modern Orca.
and from 12 to 7 million years ago, these things RULED the seas. Megalodon who?
but the greatest of these was Livyatan Melvillei, which was the size of our modern Sperm Whale.
reaching up to 60 feet long and weighing well over 60 tons, it this thing was a Sea Monster in every sense of the word.
it is so BONKERS huge that they named it after the Hebrew name for the Biblical Leviathan (and also Herman Melville, who would have gotten a real kick out of it). I cannot overstate how unsafe it would be to share an ocean with this thing. Moby Dick would have been an entirely different book if it was still around.
so what does a 60-feet hyperpredatory whale eat?
*Groucho Marx voice* WHY, ANYTHING IT WANTS.
(but mostly other whales.)
Livyatan spent most of its time cruising around looking for delicious smaller whales to shove into that nightmare maw up there, a lifestyle choice we call macroraptorial. though in a pinch, anything else would also do.
(basically, if you were a mid-sized baleen whale in the paleozoic seas you were just SHIT out of luck, between Megalodon and this thing.)
Livyatan may have died out as little as 5 million years ago, meaning it might even have been around to make the early ancestors of Orcas regret their life choices! (Livyatan is the only animal that could possibly make an Orca regret anything, but God, at what cost)
but die out they did, and that’s probably a good thing for us. why don’t we all just take a moment to really appreciate our modern hyperspecialized Sperm Whales, especially the part where they don’t eat us!
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