Monday, December 18, 2006

"Demon Duck of Doom" and "Devil Wallabies"

August 23, 2006: Ancient Whale Rexes, Demon Ducks, and a Dead Mystery Critter in Maine. The fossil is the latest in a list of ancient creatures including sabre-toothed kangaroos, horned "devil wallabies" and the unlikely-sounding "demon duck of doom" that are reshaping views of Australia's prehistoric past. The 25-million-year-old whale fossil has forced scientists to rethink the evolution of baleen whales, the placid giants which feed by using fine hair-like fibres in their mouths to filter plankton from the sea.

"The fossil proves the baleen whale, including toothless filter-feeders like the blue whale, often thought of as gentle giants of the sea, were not always so giant or gentle," Monash University graduate researcher Erich Fitzgerald told AFP. While baleens are large -- with the blue whale reaching up to 30 metres (98 foot) -- the prehistoric predator was a swift hunter-killer only 3.5 metres (11.5 foot) long that fed on fish and small sharks, Fitzgerald said.

Scientists in Australia have discovered a fossilised ancient relative of the blue whale, seen here, with a fearsome razor-toothed appearance that has seen it
dubbed 'the T-rex of the oceans.' He said it also had large eyes, like a modern great white, to compensate for its lack of sonar.

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