Physical appearance and biologyEdit
Behaviour and traitsEdit
Basilosaurus lived in most of the warm seas around the world, and was easily the largest predator of its time. It was capable of attacking large prey, including other whales, such as Dorudon.
Like all whales, Basilosaurus was an air breather, but it had no blow-hole. Instead, it had to raise the tip of its nose out of the water to take a breath. Its ribcage was solid and not very flexible, which meant that its lung space was restricted; thus Basilosaurus could not stay under water for prolonged periods of time. Any attacks it made therefore had to be swift and accurate. With its high mammalian metabolism, Basilosaurus would have needed to eat often in order to keep its energy reserves high. It did not have the large insulating fat deposits of modern whales, so it could not have strayed into cooler waters. It was therefore restricted mainly to warmer waters, such as the ancient Tethys Sea that once ran between the African and European continents.
When it came to food, Basilosaurus was not a fussy eater. Fish, sharks, squid, turtles and other marine mammals could all fall prey to its keen eyesight. It would swim in pursuit of its victims, using its powerful serpentine tail to make brief but fast pursuits. Once its powerful jaws and sharp, serrated teeth clamped down on to an animal, there could be no escape.
As a probable solitary hunter, Basilosaurus would have spent long periods of time on its own. It lacked a 'melon', the organ that modern whales and dolphins use for echolocation and to 'sing' to one another. Even though Basilosaurus couldn't sing, the males and females would probably meet seasonally to breed. Given their sinuous body shape, they would have used their small back legs (a relic of their land-living ancestors) to guide one another into the correct mating position.
For many decades Basilosaurus was the oldest-known fossilized cetacean (or whale). Its tiny back legs were seen as proof that the whales had once been land animals, but it was not until the discovery of 'walking whales', such as Ambulocetus, that there was proof of this. It is now known that the whales evolved from large, wolf-like animals called mesonychians such as Andrewsarchus.
A female Basilosaurus hunted a hunting pair of sharks but launching them out of the water. Subsequently, the female fed on the dead sharks. Later, the female was confronted by two males who were fighting for the right to mate with her. However, an older, larger male arrived and intimidated the two young males. The male and female then mated.
With the changing environment and climate, the now pregnant Basilosaurus was driven to the mangrove swamps of the Sahara Desert. As the giant whale navigated the swamps, a group of Apidium drew attention to her. The Basilosaurus then decided to attack and chase a Moeritherium. Unable to go onto land, the mother circled the patch of land the Moeritherium was on until the tide came in. She then launched an attack on the Moeritherium, but, due to error, the prey escaped.
Desperate, the pregnant Basilosaurus confronted a pod of breeding Dorudon. However, the smaller whales drove her away. The mother temporarily scratched herself on the sea bed to get rid of the parasites and barnacles on her body. The Basilosaurus then launched an attack on the Dorudon, killing several newborn infants in the process. The mother then left full.
It is later revealed that the mother Basilosaurus gave birth to a calf and the pair then went to the water's surface to breathe.
When the continents are moving and the scene goes into the water you can briefly see a Basilosaurus.
A male Basilosaurus was attracted to The Ancient Mariner by the speaker playing sounds. Nigel Marven dived into the sea to see the whale but he did, the Basilosaurus was attacking the speaker. Eventually, the whale managed to tear off the speaker and viciously shook it before swimming off.
Behind the scenesEdit
List of appearancesEdit
- Walking with Beasts
- Walking with Cavemen
- 101. First Ancestors (cameo)
- Sea Monsters
- Walking with Beasts: A Prehistoric Safari
- Sea Monsters book
- The Complete Guide to Prehistoric Life