Temporal range: Serravallian
|A restoration of Livyatan melvillei protraying it in a similar fashion to the giant albino sperm whale, Moby Dick.|
Lambert et al., 2010
| Livyatan melvillei|
Lambert et al., 2010
Livyatan melvillei, sometimes known as the dire whale, is an extinct species of physeteroid whale, which lived during the Miocene epoch, approximately 12-13 million years ago. Livyatan melvillei was 13.5 to 17.5 metres (44–57 ft) long, about the same as a modern adult male sperm whale. The skull of Livyatan melvillei is 3 metres (10 ft) long. Unlike the modern sperm whale, Physeter macrocephalus, L. melvillei had functional teeth in both its jaws.The jaws of L. melvillei were robust and its temporal fossa was also considerably larger than in the modern-age sperm whale. L. melvillei is one of the largest predators yet known, with whale experts using the phrase "the biggest tetrapod bite ever found" to explain their find.
The teeth of L. melvillei are up to 36 centimetres (1.18 ft) long and are thought to be the largest of any animal yet known. Larger 'teeth' (tusks) are known, such as walrus and elephant tusks, but these are not used directly in eating. Fossil remains of many other animals—including baleen whales, beaked whales, dolphins, porpoises, sharks, sea turtles, seals and sea birds—have been found at the same site where the remains of L. melvillei have been excavated.
L. melvillei would have been a top predator of its time along with the giant shark, C. megalodon, which was contemporaneous with L. melvillei in the same region, and the whale probably had a profound impact on the structuring of Miocene marine communities. The appearance of gigantic raptorial sperm whales in the fossil record coincides with a phase of diversification and size-range increase of the baleen-bearing mysticetes in the Miocene. It has even been suggested that C. megalodon was prey for this whale.
L. melvillei is likely to have preyed upon 7–10-metre (23–33 ft) baleen whales, seals and dolphins. Unlike some whales today, it most likely hunted solitary.