By comparing those fossils, which were found in southern Peru in November 2008, with more complete remains of other species, the researchers estimate that Leviathan measured between 44 and 57 feet in length, slightly smaller than adult male sperm whales of today.
The longest of Leviathan’s teeth measure about 14 inches including the root, more than 40 percent longer than those of today’s sperm whales. And, Lambert notes, the longest tooth of Sue, one of the largest Tyrannosaurus rex specimens yet found, measures only 10.6 inches from root to tip.
Wear patterns indicate that Leviathan’s teeth sheared past each other during a bite, a sign that the beast could rip chunks of flesh from prey. Lambert and his colleagues speculate that Leviathan fed on medium-sized baleen whales, whose blubber would have been a rich source of calories.
“This is a pretty exciting discovery,” says Erich Fitzgerald, a vertebrate paleontologist at Museum Victoria in Melbourne, Australia. Leviathan represents “one thing we don’t have in the oceans today — a macropredator, a hypercarnivorous whale.”