In this reconstruction, a pod of Albicetus travel together through the Miocene Pacific Ocean, surfacing occasionally to breathe. Modern sperm whales are known for forming these tigh-knit groups, composed mainly of females and their calves. In re-examining this fossil sperm whale for the first time in 90 years, the Smithsonian team created an entirely new group in the sperm whale family, Albicetus; introduced the species, Albicetus oxymycterus, to a new branch on the sperm whale family tree and argued that the toothy fossil provides evidence of ancient seas that were rich in the number and diversity of marine mammals present. The team’s findings are published in the December 9 issue of the scientific journal PLOS ONE.
Art by A. Boersma for the Smithsonian