This is a RARE AND LARGE Sperm Whale (Physeter sp.) fossil vertebra. As an additional aesthetic bonus, we left some of the original barnacles on the surface - a beautiful display of its saltwater river origin. Being discovered in an ancient inland waterway indicates it was not a baleen whale but an odontocete (toothed whale) since there would not have been the environment a baleen whale would have needed for straining food found more suitably in open oceans. Its size and proximity to associated Sperm whale teeth and Megalodon shark teeth leave no doubt this came from the largest predatory whale of this period. The Megalodon shark and Sperm whales were THE apex predators of this period and both competed for food as well as served as each others' food source when possible. The image of two powerful killing machines larger than passenger buses fighting and tearing at each other underwater must have been an absolutely incredible battle to witness!
A well-preserved, fossil whale vertebrae of this size and quality are EXTREMELY UNCOMMON due to the fact that most were preyed upon by large sharks such as Megalodon, and scavenged by smaller meat-eaters, when they died in prehistory. Furthermore, the porous nature of the bones makes them more susceptible to decomposition and disintegration over time, rather than fossilization. Prehistoric whale bone fossils are most often found incomplete and fragmented, at best. In most cases, when bones are found in groups, they are often accompanied by Megalodon teeth indicating they were an important food source for the massive Megalodon shark. The Sperm whale is, and was the largest of all the toothed whales with males attaining lengths in excess of 60 feet. The male Sperm whale is THE largest predator living in the sea today. They are truly the kings of the ocean realm. In prehistory during the Miocene / Pliocene periods, no marine animal grew larger than the Megalodon shark and certain toothed whales such as the Sperm Whale.
We cleaned this specimen in our lab with microblasters, revealing the well-preserved surface, opting to leave several of the ocean life that later attached itself to the bone surface, as a visual indicator of its marine provenance. The specimen came from a deposit rich in fossil shark teeth of several species including Megalodon and Great White sharks and this fact plus its deep brown hue that runs through the bone is a testament to its prehistoric origin. Despite our operations being centered in the heart of "fossil diver country", examples like this are SUPER SCARCE! This fossil is perfect to display alongside a Megalodon shark tooth collection as this creature would have shared the same waters and served as the main food source for the largest and most dangerous shark that ever lived, the MEGALODON shark. This specimen is far nicer than normally seen deserves a place in the finest fossil collection.
Whales, dolphins and porpoises make up the group of air-breathing marine mammals called CETACEANS. This group is comprised of three sub-groups - the extinct ARCHAEOCETI, and two living types, the ODONTOCETI (toothed whales) and MYSTICETI (baleen whales). All have a body structure that is highly adapted for their marine environment. These features include paddle-like forelimbs, lack of external hind limbs, large tail for propulsion underwater, dorsally located nostrils for breathing just above the surface of the water, specialized ears for underwater hearing and a streamlined body profile for efficient hydrodynamic locomotion. Odontocetes are more prevalent and varied than Mysticetes. All of the smaller current living whales (porpoises, orcas, narwhals, pilots, etc.) and a few of the larger ones (Sperm Whale) are toothed (Odontocetes). Mysticetes include the largest animal that ever lived on the earth, the Blue Whale.
All cetaceans are carnivorous with a main diet consisting of fish, invertebrates and other marine mammals. Many cetacean fossils are found in sediments alongside fossil shark teeth and other marine vertebrates but whale fossils are much less common compared to other marine vertebrate fossils of the same period and region and whale fossils are often found in fragments or show evidence of predation by prehistoric sharks, no doubt, cetaceans most feared enemy in their prehistoric past.