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Killer Sperm Whale Tooth From Down Under Shakes Up Theory

Image: Killer Sperm Whale Tooth From Down Under Shakes Up Theory

Erich Fitzgerald, a paleontologist at the Museum Victoria, holds an extinct sperm whale tooth. (Museum Victoria)

By    |   Friday, 22 Apr 2016 12:45 PM

A giant killer sperm whale tooth dated from five million years ago was found in Australia, suggesting that the extinct species wasn't limited to North and South America, as thought,  and survived much longer than previously believed.

Fossil collector Murray Orr told the BBC News that the 12-inch fossil he found in February in Beaumaris Bay near Melbourne, and now donated to Australia's Museum Victoria, was a surprise because it was discovered outside of the Americas.

"Until this find at Beaumaris all fossils of giant killer sperm whales were found on the west coast of South and North America," Erich Fitzgerald, a paleontologist, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp..

Orr told the ABC program "The World Today" that when he first came across the tooth, it looked more like an artillery shell than a fossil.

"So I thought it was going to blow my arm off, but then it had a bit of a curve on the end and I realized it was a tooth, a tooth to a sperm whale." 

Orr said the discovery led to excitement among his colleagues.

"I just went wow and a couple of other scientists I've known have just expletives," Orr told "The World Today." "No, I'd seen some sperm whale teeth at the museum in their collection but they were smaller and I knew it was big but I just thought it was another one of those sperm whales."

The Museum Victoria told BBC News that the killer sperm whale is believed to be a predecessor to today's sperm whales, growing to as large as 60 feet and weighing 40 tons.

"I think this tooth is really consistent with fossil discoveries elsewhere in the world, which tell us that this particular kind of killer sperm whale was probably feeding on other whales and there is no whale alive today quite like them," Fitzgerald told "The World Today."

"So this (tooth) is about five million years old, which is also interesting because it's the youngest fossil of one of these giant killer sperm whales. All the other fossils that we know of are at least five million years older so it shows us that they survived much more recently than we previously thought," Fitzgerald added.

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A giant killer sperm whale tooth dated from five million years ago was found in Australia, suggesting that the extinct species wasn't limited to North and South America, as thought, and survived much longer than previously believed.
killer, sperm, whale, tooth
393
2016-45-22
Friday, 22 Apr 2016 12:45 PM
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