Evidence of a whale the size of “Moby Dick” was recently discovered in a mislabeled fossil that was stored at the Smithsonian Institute for years. The 300-pound fossil of a whale’s tooth is encased in stone, so when it was first examined it was believed to be a tooth of an extinct walrus.
According to News Max on December 10, staff at the Smithsonian recently embarked on a further examination of that fossil and found that it was not a walrus, but a whale’s tooth. It is an ancient cousin of the sperm whales we see today. When the researchers first examined the fossil and saw a tooth in the upper jaw, they “assume it was a walrus.”
The main diet of a sperm whale is squid, but with teeth in the upper and lower jaw, as this fossil gave evidence to, it suggests that this whale ate more than just squid. This whale most likely ate other marine animals, said Alex Boersma, lead author of the new research.
Before trying to excavate the fossil from the rock, the researchers made a 3-D model of what was encased inside. This is how they discovered it was a whale tooth as opposed to a walrus tooth fossil, as it was mistakenly labeled. This was and exciting find that brought “Moby Dick” to mind.
This fossilized whale tooth just may support the plot of “Moby Dick,” suggest the scientists researching this fossil. This is a fossil that “may lend credence to the classic tale of ‘Moby Dick,’ with this new research that was published this week, suggests News Max.
Herman Melville’s novel tells the tale of the historic sinking of the whaling ship Essex. This ship was attacked by a giant whale in a story that was told in the novel, which is usually required reading somewhere along your route of education. The same story is now told in a new movie, “In the Heart of the Sea,” which opens today. The movie is based on the true story of the Essex being attacked by a whale that eventually sunk the ship.
According to BBC News, the movie “In the Heart of the Sea,” tells the tale of a giant whale that drives the sailors to the brink of madness on the whaling ship, the Essex. The ship goes down in 1820 after the whale is done with its methodical hunt of this vessel. Clips of the movie are seen in the above video.
Did a whale this size really exist? Scientists at the Smithsonian Institution say it probably did – but 15 million years ago, according to the BBC News. While the time-line may be off for a whale of this size, the movie does replicate what it would be like to run into the whale that once belonged to that Smithsonian tooth fossil!
This whale tooth specimen is huge and with it being encased in rock it takes four people to safely lift and move the fossil. The researchers recently constructed a 3-D model of this fossil, which shows one humongous tooth! You can look at the 3-D model of that tooth here on the Smithsonian website of 3-D models.