In November 2008, fossil remains of Livyatan melvillei were discovered in the sediments of Pisco
formation at Cerro Colorado, 35 kilometres south-southwest of Ica,
Peru. The remains include a partially preserved skull with teeth and
mandible of a "sea monster" three times the size of a modern day killer
the foto from AquaPharm
The teeth of "Leviathan Melvillei" were so large it was initially
assumed they were elephant tusks.
"There were no elephants in South America before 3 million
years ago, and the specimens found have an age of 12 to 15 million
years, so that was impossible," said Professor Jelle Reumer, one of the
team of scientists who found the fossil in the Pisco-Ica desert in
They had been searching for other types of whale fossils in a
remote area some 300 kilometers south of Lima. "The place where we
found it was 20 kilometers from the nearest village," said Reumer, who
is also director of Natural History Museum in Rotterdam.
Strong winds had shifted sand to expose a three-meter long
fossilized skull. The skull of today's blue whale, still the largest
animal ever known to have existed, is around six meters long.
The fossilized remains found in Peru include a jaw
bone and several teeth, each around 12 centimeters in
diameter and up to 36 centimeters in length.
The size of its teeth indicate that the mammal fed on large
prey, possibly baleen whales which were plentiful at the time of the
Leviathan's existence around 12 million to 13 million years ago, in the
middle of the Miocene Age, Reumer said. It is not known why
they became extinct. Reumer said it could have been due to "climatic
"After the Miocene it became relatively much colder. At the same time
the baleen whales became bigger probably to escape from predation from
these animals, just the way elephants escaped predation by becoming
bigger so they were not eaten by lions any more," he said. Baleen
whales now grow to 30 meters in length. Back then, they were much
smaller, around six to ten meters long.
Reumer says the Leviathan could be best compared to a modern
killer whale. Killer whales feast on sea lions, seals, fish, birds and
sometimes other whales.
Modern sperm whales have a completely different method of
feeding; they suck in squid at depths of a kilometer or more and only
have relatively small teeth on their lower jaw.The whale was named
after the original Hebrew word for a mythical sea monster -- Livyatan
-- and Herman Melville, the author of the novel Moby Dick.
remains of the Leviathan Melvillei will remain in Peru at the Museo de
Historia Natural in Lima. Casts of the three largest teeth
are on display at the the Natural History Museum Rotterdam.
Reumer says there is very little chance another will be found.
"It's a top predator so there were very few specimens living at any
period of time. The chance that they are fossilized is very small and
the chance that you find them is even smaller," he said.