Basilosaurus is a prehistoric whale which lived approximately 40 million to 34 million years ago during the Late Eocene Period. It was first discovered during the 19th century in the United States and was originally thought to have been some kind of prehistoric reptile. Which is why it was given the name Basilosaurus in 1834 – a name which means “king lizard.”
One of the most interesting facts about Basilosaurus is that so many specimens were found in the Southern part of the U.S, that there were people making furniture out of the bones. As such, paleontologists had plenty of specimens they could use to draw a pretty accurate picture of this prehistoric whale’s size and diet.
Just from looking at Basilosaurus pictures, you can tell that this whale was pretty big. And it was. In fact, it was approximately 54 feet long and weighed around 15 tons. That means that it was longer than a semi-trailer and was approximately as heavy as a modern cruise ship’s anchor. While that might seem extremely big, this whale wasn’t the biggest whale that ever lived. No, that honor would have to go to Leviathan – a whale which was 3 times heavier than Basilosaurus.
A lot of people would conclude that since so many of this whale’s fossils were found in the United States, then North America must have been its home. However, that’s not the case. Sure, a lot of fossils were found in Louisiana and Mississippi in the United States, but there were also some fossils found halfway around the world in Egypt. Which means that this whale probably lived in oceans all over the world.
This whale was a carnivore, as evidenced by its teeth and jaws. Scientists have studied this whale’s jaws and teeth and have discovered that it probably had an enormous bite-force. They found that this whale could bite down with a force of about 2,300 pounds. To give you an idea of just how powerful that bite-force is, all you have to do is look at the following examples: Gray Wolves have a bite force of about 406 pounds, lions about 691 pounds and bears about 850 pounds. Even American Crocodiles only have a bite-force 2125 pounds. Of course, it wasn’t as powerful as a modern-day Saltwater Crocodile’s bite, which is about 7700 pounds of force, but it is the highest bite force of any modern-day mammal.
Why did this whale have such an enormous bite-force? Well, it had one so that it could hunt down and kill its favorite prey. Paleontologists believe it probably feasted on large fish and small whales and probably anything else it could have gotten hold of.