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Leviathan Melvilli comes for you

GRAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!

Today’s sperm whale has no functional teeth in its upper jaw and only small ones in its lower jaw (which are mostly used in fights). It feeds through suction, relying on a rush of water to carry its prey into its open mouth. But Leviathan’s mouth was full of huge teeth, the largest of which were a foot long and around 4 inches wide. This was no suction feeder! Leviathan clearly grabbed its prey with a powerful bite, inflicting deep wounds and tearing off flesh as killer whales do, but with a skull three times bigger….

The skull is beautifully adapted to capture large, powerful prey. The snout was short and wide, allowing it to bite more strongly with its front teeth and resist the struggles of its prey. Its temporal fossa – the shallow depression on the side of the skull – was enormous and could old huge jaw-closing muscles. The bite would have been the largest of any tetrapod (the animal group that includes mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians). And the teeth were deeply embedded in the jaw bones for each support, and interlocked to give the animal a shearing, meat-carving bite. They were also angled forwards, giving Leviathan a better grip on prey with curved bodies.

Behold Leviathan: the sperm whale that killed other whales

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Tagged: nature

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