You are currently browsing the monthly archive for September 2014.

 

11949868721596191242creation_day_5_number_ge_01.svg.hiOf the top ten posts of all time, number five is my personal favorite. As you might imagine, it deals with catfish—those bewhiskered masters of freshwater survival. Catfish live on all continents (other than Antarctica—where they once lived) and they thrive in virtually every freshwater habitat worldwide. The siluriformes have even left freshwater and begun to reconquer the ancient oceans from whence all chordates originally sprang. They are a phenomenally successful family—one of life’s greatest success stories. When Earth life finally leaves home and blasts off into the greater firmament, I am sure catfish will find a way to tag along in our fresh water supply (assuming we can ever look up from our stupid I-phones and celebrity folderol for ten minutes to make such a thing happen).

 

A school of Striped Eel Catfish (Plotosus lineatus)

A school of Striped Eel Catfish (Plotosus lineatus)

Ferrebeekeeper has featured all sorts of catfish posts: catfish in art, the politics of farm-raised catfish, colorful catfish, venomous coral reef catfish, even terrifying underworld gods that are catfish! There are upside-down catfish, and catfish which care, and even wild catfish living in Brooklyn (both at the beach and at the reservoir). Tune in later this autumn when we will go all celebrity chef and cook a delicious catfish! I guess what I am saying is that I really like catfish! I admire their astonishing versatility. The secret to their success is straightforward but hardly simple—they have a vast array of astonishing sense organs which allow them to thrive in environments where other fish are lost. Even if their habitat is dark, turbid, or chaotic—the numerous senses of the catfish (some of which are not possessed by humans) allow it to evade predators, find food, and carry on a social life which is often surprisingly elaborate. You can read all about these astonishing senses in Ferrebeekeeper’s fifth top post of all time “Sensitive Siluriformes: How Catfish Perceive the World.”

 

M. Tigrinus

Merodontotus Tigrinus (The Zebra Shovelnose Catfish)

After you are done reading (or re-reading) the original post, I hope you will pause to reflect on how astonishingly beautiful and sophisticated life is. Most people I talk to initially dismiss catfish as lowly bottom-feeders (or possibly talk about them as delicious sandwiches), but they are magnificent organisms which live everywhere based on senses we are just beginning to understand. They are also related to us: distant cousins who stayed closer to the traditional ways of our great, great, ever-so-great grandparents the ancient lobe-finned fishes of the Silurian. But despite their adherence to a traditional aquatic lifestyle the catfish are hardly unsophisticated cousins!

Grandpa?

Grandpa?

Fiery number 6

Way back in October of 2010, Ferrebeekeeper featured a powerful series of posts about the children of Echidna, the ancient Greek “mother of monsters” who birthed so many of the scariest beasts of classical mythology. Among the hellish siblings born to her, there were all sorts of heterogeneous creatures—a lion, a dragon, a sow, a hydra, a sphinx, a giant eagle, and a mish-mash chimera (family dinners must have been extremely colorful)—but pride of place goes always to Cerberus, the three headed hell hound who guards the entrance to the underworld. Cerberus has fascinated artists, poets, and everyone else for thousands of years, and he still continues to do so. Despite the fact that the internet is filled with pictures, essays, and posts about the great monster dog of the underworld, he still garners attention. People really love the horrifying three-headed monster which forever prevented damned spirits from escaping the miserable realm of death: that is why the hellbeast Cerberus is the number 6 all-time most popular post on Ferrebeekeeper!

cerberus

The original post mentioned the main Greco-Roman myths which featured Cerberus and then showed a gallery of paintings, drawings, prints, and digital images of the big dog. In order to celebrate, here are yet more artworks of Cerberus.

The Story of Orpheus: Cerberus (Edward Burne-Jones, 1875)

The Story of Orpheus: Cerberus (Edward Burne-Jones, 1875)

Cerberus (Martin Boucher? late eighteenth century)

Cerberus (Martin Bouche? late eighteenth century, line engraving)

12th Labor of Hercules-Cerberus (Pierre Salsiccia, 2013, pencil drawing)

12th Labor of Hercules-Cerberus (Pierre Salsiccia, 2013, pencil drawing)

Hercules and Cerberus (Hans Sebald Beham, 1545, engraving)

Hercules and Cerberus (Hans Sebald Beham, 1545, engraving)

Juno Defies Cerberus and Enters Hades (Johann Wilhelm Baur German, c. 1639, etching)

Juno Defies Cerberus and Enters Hades (Johann Wilhelm Baur
German, c. 1639, etching)

Hercules and Cerberus (Antonio Tempesta, 1608, Print)

Hercules and Cerberus (Antonio Tempesta, 1608, Print)

Wow, there is a reason the great three-headed dog remains popular even as Ixon, the Hekatonkheires, and Nix are all forgotten!  Cerberus is an amazing subject for visual art (as well as being a dog, and all good-hearted people love dogs–even feisty problem pooches).

 

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Ah the magnificent platypus! I told you the other day that there were other mammals on the list of Ferrebeekeeper top ten blog posts and here is one right now…barely. With its duck-like beak, beaver-like physique (& fur), and egg-based reproduction, the lovable monotreme platypus has been capturing hearts and provoking perplexity ever since it was first discovered by European natural scientists.

The platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus)

The platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus)

Here at Ferrebeekeeper we concentrated on one of the platypus’ lesser known weird attributes—his scary venomous spur! (I say “he” not to encourage gender stereotypes, but because only the male platypus has venom glands). Of course platypuses are remarkable in so many other ways. Genetic evidence suggests that monotreme lineage dates back to the dawn of the Mesozoic era! These adorable furry egg-laying rapscallions split from early mammalian ancestors back before the ascendancy of the dinosaurs.

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Of course it isn’t just zoologists and paleontologists who are fascinated by platypuses, In my former life as a toymaker, I noticed that all sorts of toys and toy retailer names involved platypuses. Not only was there was “The Purple Platypus” a stylish independent toy store, there were also multitudinous platypus plush creatures. A platypus is the hero of the popular animated show “Phineas and Ferb” (ostensibly a lovable family pet, Perry the platypus is actually “Agent P.”, an international special operative working for OWCA—the Organization Without a Cool Acronym). There was even a platypus figure in the extremely rare “Deluxemorphs” toy set of the now defunct Zoomorphs.

Perry the Platypus AKA "Agent P"

Perry the Platypus AKA “Agent P”

So that our top ten list does not become a stale list of links to old (albeit extremely popular) posts, here is a galley of platypus mascots and adorable platypus cartoons.

Some sort of Business Platypus?

Some sort of Business Platypus?

platypus_logo images Paulie FB PaulieThePlatypusSm platypus46442 platypus

A Platypus was one of the mascots of the Australian Olympics!

A Platypus was one of the mascots of the Australian Olympics!

Look at all of the adorable beaks and flippers! It’s amazing that all mascots aren’t platypuses…

Hey! That's not a mascot--it's original Aboriginal art!

Hey! That’s not a mascot–it’s original Aboriginal art!

 

 

eight-ball

For Christmas of 2011, celebrity chef and international gadabout Anthony Bourdain hired me to make child murder puppets!

Argh! Anthony Bourdain!

Argh! Anthony Bourdain!

Well, maybe I’m overstating it a bit. Actually a film-maker friend who works for Anthony Bourdain commissioned me to make two naughty children puppets and a walking Santa figurine for a stop-motion animated segment which was supposed to air on Bourdain’s Christmas special. I didn’t even make any eyes or mouths—as these were animated in post-production.

The real hero of the piece was the Alpine winter demon Krampus—an ancient horned god who rips disobedient and willful children into pieces (in stark opposition to Santa, who anonymously (?) gives good children toys and treats). Not only is Krampus a wicked psychopath, he is also all furry, pointy, and gross-looking. Yet evidently the wicked monster strikes a chord with people, because our December 8th 2011 post about Krampus was the eighth most popular post ever. I guess the celebrity tie-in might have helped out. Plus you can still watch the chilling animation of my puppets being murdered by Krampus on Youtube (even if studio heads cut the disturbing segment from the final TV show).

Argh! Krampus!

Argh! Krampus!

I counted Krampus as one of the “Deities of the Underworld” since he is an immortal god of darkness, cold, and murder. However he is not at all the last dark chthonic entity on the top ten list of Ferrebeekeeper posts! People really love evil gods! What is a bit sad is that Santa Claus did not come anywhere near the top ten list–even though I wrote a series of posts about his bizarre seventeen hundred year journey from obscure dead bishop to the third (or maybe fourth) most popular deity in the Christian faith. Plus Santa is compassionate and generous—although he wasn’t always that way. Anyway—if you have followed the story carefully you will note that I actually made a Santa puppet not a creepy Krampus.

Santa, with horsewhip toasting a multi-billion dollar corporation...

Santa, with horsewhip toasting a multi-billion dollar corporation…

Also a note to Anthony Bourdain (or anyone else with money): I am still available to make puppets and sculptures to demand.

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In some horrible irony, if I spend hours crafting an elaborate thesis and supporting it with fascinating points then nobody reads it. If instead I just slap down a cheetah cub in a bucket or a cute grinning snake everyone loves it. The amount of attention a post receives is inversely proportional to the amount of effort it takes. Argh!

I reveal this hard truth in order to introduce Ferrebeekeeper’s ninth and tenth most popular posts of all time!

The tenth most popular post was about the visually appealing but otherwise unremarkable green vine snake (Ahaetulla nasuta) of the Indian subcontinent. This inoffensive reptile spends its life pretending to be a vine! Apparently people love it though, because all sorts of visitors came to look at the two beautiful photos of the snake which I found on the internet.

Green vine snake (Ahaetulla nasuta) Photo by National Geographic

Green vine snake (Ahaetulla nasuta) Photo by National Geographic

Ninth most popular was a post about adorable baby cheetahs playing in and around hats. Of course the post was really about more than how cute cheetahs are (and they are very cute indeed) but how they survive in a habitat which has moved away from their blazing fast skill set.  I love cheetahs, so this was a special post to me too.

I said Cheetah with a hat not cheetah in a hat...oh, just go look at the post

I said Cheetah with a hat not cheetah in a hat…oh, just go look at the post

So far, of the top ten posts on Ferrebeekeeper, the tenth most popular was about serpents– which is the best that serpents have managed to do thus far. The ninth most popular is about mammals, but (spoiler) there are more mammals as we get farther up the list. People really love those furry rascals (and ARE those furry rascals)!

celebrate

Ferrebeekeeper is quickly coming up on its 1000th post (this one, which you are reading is the 990th). Before we get to the thousandth post, we’re going to have a special top ten countdown to look back at some of the highlights of all the topics we have covered so far. Then I’ll write something really super special for the millennial post! After that, it will be Halloween-time, which always features some of our best material…so it’s going to be a great autumn! However, before we get to these thrilling special events and celebrations, I wanted to address some of the issues raised by this blog and also ask the readers a few questions.

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Most importantly, what is the purpose of this blog…or any blog? I actually started writing Ferrebeekeeper merely because a friend set it up for me. Also my blog-hero Andreas Kluth (who has seemingly stopped writing his blog, now that his book is published) recommended blogging as a way to organize one’s thoughts, feelings, and creative impulses. Ferrebeekeeper has 29 topics (you can see them right there to the left) and I try to write about one of them each day. Sometimes I can combine several—like when I write about Chinese snake art, or Ancient Egyptian bee-crowns. Those are happy days! Other days I can’t think of anything that fits any of the listed topics—so I write something random and chuck it under “uncategorized.”

Galaxy-background

So I started this blog to share interesting and meaningful things with you–and that is still my wish. I want to use it to push forward my ideas about art, science, and human progress. I also want to keep this blog exciting and relevant—and growing. Yet now I am also stumbling about accidentally on the threshold of a career in journalism. Writing articles a certain way in exchange for money is causing me to reassess the purpose and future directions of Ferrebeekeeper. The media world has been changing with vertiginous rapidity. Sadly, for someone who is a technophile with dreams of space colonization, I have minimal web-savvy—so I didn’t get into the blogging game until the golden age of blogs had passed. Yet the idea of blogs is uniquely powerful and democratic. Ferrebeekeeper is a sort of one-person magazine about life, art, science, and history. Yet when one compares it to a real magazine, the differences become abundantly clear. Magazines are made to make money. They are large corporate entities with marketers, logisticians, and advertisers (in addition to all of the artists, writers, and editors who make the content).

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Instead of a whole team of highly paid artists, illustrators, writers, editors, marketers, and photographers working together to churn out exciting highly produced content, there is just me in my pajamas trying to create a daily post [editor’s note; he doesn’t actually have pajamas…or, for that matter, an editor]. I do the best I can, but some days the research does not pan out and the topic ends up a bit flat (like, erm, cough, this bland post about the color viridian).

Of course a few blogs (or tumblers or twitter accounts or whatever) are making it big. If you specialize, you can sell to special advertisers. My friend always tells the story of his cousin the Korean food blogger who was able to retire from her day job of being trapped in a beige cubicle. All she does now is write about delicious Korean food every day as sponsors fight each other to giver her money! Can you imagine?

 

Argh! Why didn't I write about Korean food?

Argh! Why didn’t I write about Korean food?

But I suppose the point of writing a blog isn’t to seek out wealth and fame (which is what twitter and reality TV are for). Instead I write this blog to explore the world (the universe?) in two ways. The first and most obvious is that I have to find out something every workday and write about it. Some posts, like the ones about parthenogenesis, brown dwarf stars, or alternation of generations are especially interesting and challenging. I am forced to learn all sorts of new things to write effectively about science, history, and geography. However, even the rapidly slapped together “list” posts of mollusk mascots or gothic clocks offer precious and unexpected insights into what is beautiful, intriguing, and meaningful. There have been points where I felt like everything was going to come together in some amazing epiphany–Chinese painting, turkeys, invaders, art, astronomy, and history would all become the same thing and I would understand the world. That larger understanding of how everything fits together always ends up eluding me, yet writing helps me try to weave wildly disparate threads of knowledge into a coherent weltanschauung.

BCbest0418

The second way that this blog allows me to explore the world is through the readers who are always making unexpected connections, or asking questions. Since I can not travel the globe in person, I do so through this blog. Intelligent people from all sorts of different countries have written comments to me (and, according to the analytics tool, even more of you are reading). I am poor at quickly responding to people’s submissions, but I always try to respond cogently.  Please keep writing comments!  I know that wordpress makes it hard to respond, but I really esteem your input.

I guess the point of this blog is you–the readers! Of course, like all writers, I want to be read and to reach more like-minded souls! The fact that someone is actually reading Ferrebeekeeper is what makes it different from being a diary or a weird set of notes. I am constantly thinking about how I can make this effort more appealing while not selling out and using misleading click-bait to write about worthless celebrities.

Although Katy Perry always manages to sneak in somehow.

Although Katy Perry always manages to sneak in somehow.

It comes down to this paradox. This blog is not about selling something (although I guess WordPress sometimes puts ads on it), yet I do want it to be better and reach more people—which involves selling myself more effectively. What can I do to improve? How can I make this space better for you? Please write to me with your concerns, suggestions, and comments.  Working together, we can make the next thousand posts even more astonishing and beautiful!

1000

Map of Namibia

Map of Namibia

Our imaginary fantasy trip across Africa has taken us to some amazing places as we proceeded west along the map starting out from the micro-continent of Madagascar. Exploring the continent on the internet has really made me want to visit someday! Through photos and descriptive writing we have seen the great lakes of Malawi and Tanzania. We have lingered in the terrifying yet astonishing rainforests of the Congo. We have marveled at the unprecedented ugliness of the flags of Mozambique and Angola (sorry, flagmakers). At last we come to the ancient Namib Desert. Beyond it lie the cold waves of the Atlantic Ocean filled with nutrients thrown off from the mighty Antarctic circumpolar current. It is one of the most jarring juxtapositions on Earth—the rich freezing waters of the sea pound against the burning arid dunes.

NHP-MWE001352A

As you can tell, I have a fascination with the Namib. If I ever win the lottery or suddenly find a bag of gold or gain a million internet followers [crickets chirping], I will make it my business to go there at once. The Namib is the world’s oldest desert. As the continents dance all around the globe and their landscapes change from forest to ocean to plains to mountains to glaciers, the Namib has somehow stayed a wallflower and kept its dry desert climate. Its climate has been largely unchanged since the time of the dinosaurs, which is why it is home to oddities like the welwitschia and the sandswimming golden mole.

A San Hunter Gatherer in Namibia

A San Hunter Gatherer in Namibia

Namibia’s human history recedes into the remote mists of prehistory (humankind is after all from Africa). Various groups of people arrived in the desert in waves. The San, Damara, and Namaqua—hunter-gatherers, then herdsmen—arrived. Then the farmers of the great Bantu expansion showed up in the 14th century. Contemporary Namibian history is more tragic—since the desert land was caught between mighty colonial powers of Germany and Great Britain. Great Britain took the most useful natural harbor and Germany took the rest of Namibia—although the native Namaqua and Herero tribes rose against the nascent colonialists. From 1904 to 1907 the Germans wiped out approximately 10,000 Nama 65,000 Hereros in one of the twentieth century’s first genocides. The surviving tribespeople were relegated to concentration camps and unlivable ghettos.

German Colonial Powers of the Second Reich in Namibia

German Colonial Powers of the Second Reich in Namibia

When the Germans lost World War I, Namibia passed to de-facto South African control. South Africa administered the territory somewhat informally (and brutally and badly) until a variety of incomprehensible UN mandates, international pressure, and a scrappy (though morally gray) guerilla independence movement forced the apartheid government of South Africa to grant the nation independence in 1990. Contemporary Namibia has abundant natural resources (which are managed with greater fairness than in neighboring states), but it has suffered greatly from the scourge of HIV. Additionally the single political party SWAPO (which evolved from the aforementioned scrappy independence fighters) is run by a somewhat opaque politburo.

 

Flag of Namibia

Flag of Namibia

The flag of Namibia is based on the flag of the national liberation movement. It was chosen by the chairman of the subcommittee for flag creation who reviewed over 800 designs before choosing the current flag. The colors have symbolism not dissimilar to other African national liberation flags. Red represents the people of Namibia and the blood they have shed to make a nation together. White is the color of unification and peace. Green represents farms, agriculture, and ecology. Blue represents the ocean and the life-giving freshwater which is so rare in the desert. The sun represents…well, the sun…the source of all energy and life (although political junkies might speculate that it also is a homage to the sun of the Kuomintang).

A strangely horrifying illustration of the supermassive black hole located in the middle of the very dense miniature galaxy M60-UCD1

A strangely horrifying illustration of the supermassive black hole located in the middle of the very dense miniature galaxy M60-UCD1

Fifty million light years away from Earth is the dwarf galaxy M60-UCD1. This tiny globular galaxy is 300 light years across–whereas our own beloved spiral galaxy, the Milky Way, is 120,000 light years in diameter! Yet within that 300 million light year sphere, M60-UCD1 is a crazy place. Despite its (comparatively) tiny area, the dwarf galaxy is teaming with stars: astronomers estimate it contains 140 million star systems. If Earth were located in M60-UCDI, the night sky would positively glow with millions of visible tars (as opposed to the measly 4000 which are visible to the naked eye in our present location). This is all quite odd, yet only recently did astronomers discover the strangest thing about M60-UCDI. At the center of the tiny galaxy is a supermassive black hole which weighs more than twenty million suns. To quote the European Space Agency’s website, “The supermassive black hole at the centre of M60-UCD1 makes up a huge 15 percent of the galaxy’s total mass, and weighs five times that of the black hole at the center of the Milky Way.”

Messier 60 with M60-UCDI (Composite image from NASA's Hubble & Chandra space telescopes)

Messier 60 with M60-UCDI (Composite image from NASA’s Hubble & Chandra space telescopes)

Astronomers speculate that something went terribly wrong to form this oddball of a galaxy. A prime culprit is Messier 60, a large scary galaxy which lurks near the little dwarf galaxy. The black hole at the center of Messier 60 is 4.5 billion times the size of our Sun! Perhaps once upon a time M60-UCDI was a normal galaxy with billions of stars…till it wandered too close to Messier 60. The larger galaxy tore off the majority of the stars which made up M60-UCDI and added them to itself (while Messier 60’s black hole swallowed up its fair share of star systems). It is a horrifying image of galactic bullying! Why can’t we all get along?

National Museum of American History

National Museum of American History

The other day I was chatting with a friend about my long-ago job as an assistant curator at the Smithsonian history museum and we began to muse about what the quintessential artifacts of today will someday be. When historians of the future try to represent our time will they display a bunch of obsolete computer kit (which can not be made to works after a couple of years—much less decades or centuries), or Britney Spears memorabilia, or Segue scooters, or “as seen on TV” junk like salad shooters and such? What is the quintessential object which shows who we are and how we live? We came up with all sorts of answers—most of which did not paint contemporary culture in a wholly positive light—but the one which struck me as the truest was the simple disposable air horn.

An Air Horn

An Air Horn

An air horn is a plastic noisemaking reed attached to a jar of compressed air. When the player (possessor?) presses a button, the infernal device issues a hellish shriek of ear-piercing volume. I do not mean that last descriptor as a metaphor: air horns, like firearms and jet engines, are very capable of causing serious irreparable hearing damage. These horrid novelty items are available everywhere for next to nothing. People use them at sporting contests to distract the opposing team or sometimes in cruel pranks to make an unwitting victim panic. Mostly they are just used to call attention to the loutish person with the horn. Air horns have only one note, but that note is so loud it drowns everything else out—a perfect description of today’s celebrity personalities, advertising tactics, and political discourse.

Air horns evolved from the whistles of trains and the mighty horns of ships. These horns used compressed gasses from engine function in order to warn of eminent departure or collision. They had a real purpose. Yet, while it is possible that Alfred Hitchcock or Tom Clancy (or some other master of contrived suspense) could invent a scenario where a disposable air horn saved the day, I doubt it has ever happened. These objects exist only to make insufferably loud noise. If someone on the street was blowing one to warn of North Koreans, Godzilla, or zombie attack I would ignore it in the belief that it was just some drunken oaf showing off.

or we could just rename it the "fun horn"

or we could just rename it the “fun horn”

Worst of all, I think an air horn speaks directly to the reptile/Kardashian part of the brain which lurks in us all. I do not like air horns, but if someone gave me one I would be fascinated by it and would want to push it. It would sit there menacingly, like Chekov’s gun, just waiting till I could resist no longer and gave it a tiny test. I wish it were not so, but I would have to push it, despite the deleterious effect it would have on my personal relationships and happiness. Because they bear this unwholesome power, I would be shocked if air horns do not end up in a “late 20th/early 21st century” display case highlighting the nature of our times. They will sit there with other loud self-aggrandizing artifacts like Nascar jerseys, Jeff Koons art, MySpace, and Kanye West.

"I will go down as the voice of this generation, of this decade, I will be the loudest voice."

“I will go down as the voice of this generation, of this decade, I will be the loudest voice.”  [Actual Quote]

Air horns do indeed draw attention to us and tell everyone exactly who we are. It is a very well-made item—at least until someone invents something even louder and more annoying.   Or you could ignore my cranky jeremiad and write to tell me what you would choose as the quintessential object of this age!

Livyatan Melvillei (image painted by Balazs Petheo)

Livyatan Melvillei (image painted by Balazs Petheo)

Behold the terrifying ocean monster, Livyatan Melvillei! This predatory toothed whale lived 12-13 million years ago during the Miocene epoch and grew to 13.5 to 17.5 meters (45–57 feet) in length. A large adult whale could have weighed up to 50 tons. The extinct megapredator is named for Herman Melville and for the Biblical leviathan (“Livyatan” is from the Hebrew word for Leviathan). The great whale’s family is currently listed as “incertae sedis” which means “status uncertain,” a taxonomical place-holder used when biologists are trying to ascertain a creature’s relationship to other related organisms within a larger order.

Livyatan Melvillei

Livyatan Melvillei with smaller baleen whale

In terms of body size, the modern sperm whale is probably slightly longer and heavier, but the livyatan had stronger jaws and much larger teeth. Paleontologists describe the mighty creature as having “the biggest tetrapod bite ever found,” which is no trivial matter, since the tetrapods include all mammals, reptiles (like dinosaurs), amphibians, and birds. Of course plankton feeders (like blue whales and whale sharks) have larger mouths, but the sperm whale and the livyatan have more powerful maws filled with large sharp teeth. The 36 centimeter (1.2 foot) long teeth of livyatan are the largest known teeth from the animal world which were used for eating (which is to say the tusks of elephants, walruses, Odobenocetops, and narwhals tusks were larger, but were not used for biting into plants or animals).

Livyatan Melvillei biting a smaller baleen whale (painting via dino-rider)

Livyatan Melvillei BITING a smaller baleen whale (painting via dino-rider)

Livyatan Melvillei presumably swam the deep blue ocean hunting for seals, dolphins, baleen whales and whatever other sea creature was large enough to command its attention (giant sharks, huge squid, huge fish, and bizarre giant birds?). Like the sperm whale it seems to have had a spermaceti organ in its head although it is unclear if this was used for echolocation, auditory signaling, or aggressive male sexual display (i.e. head-butting).  It must have been quite a (horrifying) sight to see one of these giant monsters biting apart a 10 meter (33 foot) long baleen whale. Sadly, the ever-changing dynamic of ocean life caused the great toothed whale to go extinct at approximately the same time as megalodon, the largest known shark (which was a contemporary of the great whale).  Numerous websites speculate which great animal would have won an ocean duel–which is foolish, since whales are clever animals and thus the obvious victor.

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