Zygophyseter

Name: Zygophyseter.
Phonetic: Zig-oh-fy-se-ter.
Named By: Bianucci‭ & ‬Landini‭ ‬-‭ ‬2006.
Classification: Chordata,‭ ‬Mammalia,‭ ‬Cetacea,‭ ‬Physeteroidea.
Species: Z.‭ ‬varolei (type).
Diet: ‭C‬arnivore.
Size: Approximately ‬7‭ ‬meters long.
Known locations: Italy.
Time period: Tortonian stage of the Miocene of the Neogene.
Fossil representation: Almost complete skeleton.

       Zygophyseter was a raptorial sperm whale that is sometimes called the‭ '‬killer sperm whale‭'‬.‭ ‬Discovered in southern Italy,‭ ‬Zygophyseter is confirmed to have been active in the Paratethys Sea which today is represented by the Mediterranean,‭ ‬Black,‭ ‬Caspian and Aral Seas.‭ ‬However back in the Miocene the sea levels were much higher which means that the Paratehys Sea submerged a much larger area than the these seas do today.‭ ‬This resulted in much of mainland Europe being turned into a chain of islands,‭ ‬with a direct seaway connection between Europe and the Indian‭ ‬Ocean.
       Zygophyseter was almost certainly a powerful predator,‭ ‬and had teeth in both the upper and lower jaws.‭ ‬This is a seemingly common trait in large prehistoric predatory whales that has not been passed onto today‭’‬s large species like the sperm whale which only has teeth in the lower jaw.‭ ‬The teeth of Zygophyseter were also conical,‭ ‬sharp and rooted deep into the jaw.‭ ‬These are the hallmarks of a predator that tackles large and powerful prey that would damage the jaws and teeth of a lesser hunter.
       Study of the skull has also revealed that Zygophyseter had a spermaceti organ,‭ ‬a part that would be filled with oil and wax.‭ ‬The structure of this organ is believed to have provided Zygophyseter with the ability to use echolocation,‭ ‬making prey acquisition much easier.‭ ‬This organ is also what gives modern cetaceans their‭ '‬domed‭' ‬or‭ '‬box-head‭' ‬head shape,‭ ‬and in Zygophyseter the jaws seem to have extended out from underneath this area giving Zygophyseter a bottlenose appearance.
       Zygophyseter was used to work out the size of another but larger predatory prehistoric whale named Livyatan which is known only from a skull.

Further reading
- Killer sperm whale: a new basal physeteroid (Mammalia, Cetacea) from the Late Miocene of Italy - Zoological Journal of the Linnaean Society 148:103-131 - G. Bianucci & W. Landini - 2006.



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