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‘Killer’ sperm whales

Killer sperm whalesCredit: C. Letenneur (MNHN)

Modern sperm whales have the biggest bite of any tetrapod, but their teeth are relatively small and restricted to the lower jaw, and they feed by suction. The discovery of large teeth in the fossil record had suggested, however, that predatory sperm whales once existed, similar in habit to today’s killer whales, but much larger. Suggestion becomes reality with the discovery of the fossil teeth and jaws of a predatory sperm whale from the Middle Miocene of Peru, almost as large as a modern sperm whale but with a three-metre head and jaws full of teeth. This beast was probably able to prey upon large marine vertebrates — perhaps the medium-sized baleen whales abundant around 12 million years ago — in a way similar to the modern killer whale. [Letter p. 105] | Nature Video »

Nature Volume 466 Issue 7302

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