Finished reconstruction of the massive raptorial sperm whale Livyatan melvillei
, a serious contender for best name for an extinct animal (biblical Leviathan + Herman Melville, author of 'Moby Dick') and one of my favorite Cenozoic creatures. It lived during the Miocene epoch about 10 million years ago, and with some huge teeth was well-adapted for hunting medium-sized whales near the ocean surface. I looked at pictures of living sperm whales to get the right look for the eye and the overall texture of the skin, scars abound. Pretty happy with this one, it's been on my "wish list" for a while now.
Somewhat related, I'd like to share literally one of the best pieces of writing I've ever read, from a twitter thread
by Nate Crowley about modern sperm whales:"Having a think about sperm whales this morning. Specifically, how they routinely make one of the most nightmarish journeys imaginable as part of the ordinary business of living.
For a start, imagine living in a world with no edges - no floor, no ceiling, no walls, and barely ever something large or tangible enough to even bump into. Just water.
And then, when you need to eat, you raise the back end of your body and you begin swimming down. Just... down. Into a place so preposterously hostile to air-breathing life that it scares us just to think about.
But they just angle their big, battering-ram heads down and plough into it. Until the light vanishes and the temperature plunges and every space inside them crinkles into dense, wet nothing with the pressure.
They can spend ninety minutes down there. Ninety minutes in the gelid, crushing blackness, their every muscle dense as wood and black with myoglobin - a sixty tonne sarcophagus keeping a mammal's brain alive.
And then they fight. They hunt out creatures we can only comprehend through tired references to old horror stories, and they rip them apart. Arms as long as trees lash out as they die, hooked suckers carving scars that will never leave.
But the whales crush the monsters in jaws longer than you are tall, gulping down mounds of frigid, ammoniac jelly in a slurry of icy brine and marine snow. They have broken into hell and they have eaten the demons.
And then they make their way slowly back into the light. Back to where the sun snakes through the water, and to the sound of birds. And there they roll, grey bodies scored with years and years of scars, nudging and bumping each other.