Moby Dick Fossil Found

Posted: Dec 10 2015, 8:14am CST | by , Updated: Dec 10 2015, 8:47am CST, in News | Latest Science News


Moby Dick Fossil Found
Smithsonian Institution's research student Alex Boersma poses with skull of Albicetus. Credit: Smithsonian Institution
  • Original Moby Dick or Great White Whale found in Fossilized Form

The very original Moby Dick or Great White Whale mentioned in Herman Melville’s novel may have been found in fossilized form.

Hollywood showed the screen version of Moby Dick or the Great White Whale. It consisted of a giant sperm whale that drives the crew of a sailing vessel mad and annihilates the vessel as well.

The narrative was built around the real-life event of the sinking of the Essex. That was back in the year 1820. The movie shows the whale to be a hideous beast that is unrelenting in its attacks on the vessel and its inhabitants.   

But did it really exist? Well, sort of. But it was probably 15 million years ago in prehistoric times! An age-old genus of whale with many teeth has been unearthed. This is a sperm whale alright and it had huge teeth that ripped into its victims’ flesh.

Alex Boersma is lead author of the new study that was published yesterday in the open access journal PLoS One. He said that Most modern day sperm whales have teeth only on their lower jaws.

That is because their main prey is squid. To see dangerous teeth on both the upper and lower jaws meant these ancient whales were dining on different fare. A likely prey was other marine animals that came within the vicinity of the whale.   

The fossil was from the collection amassed by a paleontologist named Remington Kellogg. It had been put among the treasures at the Smithsonian in Washington. The label was incorrect since it said walrus instead of whale. Only recently was it corrected.

Thoroughly exploring the fossilized remains was a task in itself since they were encased in stone and it weighed almost 300 pounds. There were broken areas where mismatched attempts at excavating it had taken place. A modern day tool of science came to the rescue in the nick of time. 

It was scanned via lasers and 3D models were made of the fossil in computerized form. The scans could be rotated to examine it in a better manner. The whole piece of the skull was very huge. And the first time it was manhandled the level of difficulty was such that four or five individuals had to do the job.

They almost incurred injuries in the process. So another safer procedure had to be tried instead. The 3D model came as a relief indeed. A recreation of the ancient whale as it appeared in the flesh was also made.

Art and science collaborated in the procedures used to recreate the whale’s physiognomy. The whale was probably a very fierce and strong creature that terrorized the deep blue sea environment.  

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
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