Whale-shaped king lizard
Eocene Epoch, 30-40 MYA
North America, Egypt, Jordan
Countries in Africa and North America
60 feet long, 10 tons
- For its time, Basilosaurus was the largest predator on the planet. The remains of bony fishes and sharks have been found within their stomachs. Wear patterns on the teeth indicate that Basilosaurus actually chewed its food to an extent. Holes found in the skulls of smaller Dorudon whales match up perfectly with Basilosaurus premolars, which suggests that it preyed on marine mammals as well.
- It is estimated that Basilosaurus could bite down with nearly 4,000 pounds of force. This is the highest bite force recorded for a mammal and is proportionally more powerful than the bite of a crocodilian with a similarly-sized skull.
The name Basilosaurus means “king lizard” because when it was first discovered, it was believed to be a marine reptile of some sort. Closer examination of the teeth revealed mammalian roots and the distinctive yolk shape lead to the creation of the name Zeuglodon. Since the name Basilosaurus had already been published, Zeuglodon was considered a junior synonym and the old, misleading name stuck. Basilosaurus had a very different body plan than modern cetaceans. It had an elongated eel-like body that could undulate in a vertical angulliform unknown in extant whales. It is unlikely that Basilosaurus was capable of deep diving. Hind flippers were still present, although these were greatly reduced in size and may have been vestigial. Also unlike modern whales, Basilosaurus had differentiated teeth.
Kingdom - Animalia Phylum - Chordata Class - Mammalia Order - Artiodactyla Family - Basilosauridae Genus - Basilosaurus Species - B. cetoides