How do we get kids interested in science? How about more pictures like this in junior-high science textbooks. Just look at it. I'm having a hard time not making metal hands at my own computer screen.
The beast in question is called Leviathan melvillei, a name so awesome that it actually made me question whether this was a legitimate animal and not something made up as a joke. But Wired Science and Science News magazine tell that it was real. And spectacular.
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.
Modern sperm whales feed largely on invertebrates such as giant squid, but have been known to feed on fish and other creatures as well. The extremely robust, deeply-rooted structure of Leviathan's teeth strongly suggests that the creature fed on large, presumably struggling bony prey like sharks do.
But that doesn't mean the whale's diet was restricted in any way. "If you're big enough," Fitzgerald notes, "you can bloody well eat what you want."
Insert guitar solo here.
(Thanks, Nick Bohac, you giant nerd.)