Killer whale's five-million-year-old fossilised tooth discovered at Melbourne beach

Melbourne's prehistoric answer to Moby Dick has been uncovered with a five-million-year-old killer whale tooth found at a renowned fossil site.

A fossil enthusiast discovered the 30cm tooth – the largest ever found in Australia – belonging to a giant predatory sperm whale with immense teeth said to have been used to hunt other whales.

Museum Victoria senior curator Dr Erich Fitzgerald is delighted the prehistoric killer whale fossil has been donated to the museum. Picture: Museum Victoria
Museum Victoria senior curator Dr Erich Fitzgerald is delighted the prehistoric killer whale fossil has been donated to the museum. Picture: Museum Victoria

“After I found the tooth I just sat down and stared at it in disbelief. I knew this was an important find that needed to be shared with everyone,” said Murray Orr, who made the discovery at Beaumaris Bay, in Melbourne’s south east.

The prehistoric artifact is believed to belong to an extinct species of killer sperm whale from the Pliocene epoch, measuring up to 18 metres long and weighing 40,000 kilograms.

The tooth is larger than those of a living sperm whale and even exceeds the dental dimensions of the mighty Tyrannosaurus Rex.

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It’s the only example of its size and kind ever to be discovered outside of the Americas, according to Museum Victoria.

Unlike the living sperm whale, which lives on a diet of squid and fish, paleontologists believe the extinct killer sperm whales preyed upon larger animals like other whales due to the size and shape of their teeth.

The killer whale's tooth (top) is bigger than that of the mighty T-Rex (bottom). Picture: Museum Victoria
The killer whale's tooth (top) is bigger than that of the mighty T-Rex (bottom). Picture: Museum Victoria

Museum Victoria senior curator Dr Erich Fitzgerald said Beaumaris Bay was a “national treasure” as one of Australia’s premier fossil sites.

“Beaumaris Bay is unique. Nowhere else on this continent produces the fossils being found at Beaumaris and provides such astonishing insights into the deep history of Australia’s marine megafauna,” he said.

The tooth is believed to belong to an extinct species of killer sperm whale measuring up to 18 metres. Photo: 7 News
The tooth is believed to belong to an extinct species of killer sperm whale measuring up to 18 metres. Photo: 7 News

He said Beaumaris was the key to unlocking the history of Australia's lost marine fauna and there was "simply nowhere else like it in Australia".

Last December, a rare small mollusc dating back more than five million years was found near the Beaumaris Motor Yacht Squadron.


Extinct prehistoric killer whales are said to have fed off other smaller whales. Picture: Museum Victoria
Extinct prehistoric killer whales are said to have fed off other smaller whales. Picture: Museum Victoria

The mollusc, related to squid and octopus, lived in the waters of Port Phillip Bay.

This finding came a year after the fossilised remains of two five-million-year-old sea turtles at the Melbourne beach in December 2014.

The turtle fossils were the first discovered and only known evidence of the evolution of sea turtles in Australia.

Over in the Queensland outback, 100 million-year-old fish fossils were unearthed on a farm in July last year, including the huge eye-socket of a primitive fish called the cooyoo and the skeletons of 20 to 30 diminutive fish.

The Beaumaris artifact has been donated to the Melbourne Museum collection for scientific research and education.

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