2016, acrylics, photography and digital
6-5 million years ago, latest Miocene (Messinian)-earliest Pliocene (Zanclean), Beaumaris Sandstone, Victoria, Australia.
(special commission for Museum Victoria as publicity for the discovery)
In the blue waters off the south-eastern coast of Australia, a pod of pygmy right whales (neobalaenine cetotheres) flee at the approach of a gigantic predator. Their attacker is an 18 metre long, 40 ton sperm whale (cf.Livyatan
sp.), a beast with rows of teeth over a foot in length.
In February 2016, local fossil hunter Murray Orr stumbled onto something amazing on the beaches around Beauamaris, an immense and almost complete whale tooth over 30 cm in length, now in the Museum Victoria collections. Probably dating from the very earliest Pliocene, it the last known representative of a raptorial-predatory stem-physeteroid, a sperm whale that preyed on other marine mammals like a modern orca, rather that suction feeding on squid like the living Physeter
. The tooth is extremely similar to those of Livyatan melvillei
, a similarly huge sperm whale from the Serravallian (13-12 million years ago) of Peru. The younger Victorian animal was probably a very close, possibly congeneric, relative.
The seas of Pliocene Beaumaris must have been unusually productive as they supported a host of gigantic ocean predators = besides the leviathan, at least 2 other large physeteroid taxa were in the area as well as a wide assortment of huge sharks, including the still-living great white (Carcharodon carcharias
), a giant mako (Cosmopolitodus hastalis
) and the legendary Carcharocles megalodon
The beaches of Beaumaris Bay are an Australian national treasure, providing an easily accessible fossil site that give astonishing insights into the marine history of the continent.