Facts about Basilosaurus, an extinct prehistoric animal

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Dinosaur Jungle   >   Other Prehistoric Animals   >   Basilosaurus




Scientific Classification
  Kingdom Animalia
  Phylum Chordata
  Class Mammalia
  Order Cetacea
  Suborder Archaeoceti
  Family Basilosauridae
  Subfamily Basilosaurinae
  Genus Basilosaurus
Basilosaurus was a type of extinct cetacean (this is the group containing whales, dolphins and porpoises). It lived between about 40 and 34 million years ago, and is immediately recognizable by its elongated serpent-like body which grew up to 60 feet (18 meters) in length.

Basilosaurus had a number of unusual features. These included vestigial but greatly reduced hind limbs (probably not useful for propelling the animal, but possibly used as a guide during mating), highly elongated vertebrae (similar to snakes), and a skeletal anatomy which suggests it may have moved an eel-like fashion. Unlike modern whales and dolphins, Basilosaurus did not have a melon organ (which modern cetaceans use for echolocation), and was probably also incapable of deep diving.

Fossils of Basilosaurus were first found in Louisana, but since then additional fossils have been found not only in the United States, but also in Egypt and Pakistan.

The story of the discovery of Basilosaurus is an interesting one. During the 19th century, Fossils of the animal were apparently very common in Alabama and Louisana, so much so, that local people used the bones to make furniture! However, some fossils were sent to the American Philosophical Society, and were eventually examined by Doctor Richard Harlan. Harlan examined the specimens and believed they were reptilian, and name the creature "Basilosaurus" which means "King lizard" or "King reptile". Later however, other material was examined by Sir Richard Owen, who determined that the animal was in fact a mammal. Owen suggested renaming the animal as Zeuglodon cetoides, however as the first published name takes precedence, the name Basilosaurus is still used today.

Today, Basilosaurus cetoides (the species whose fossils are found in the United States) is the State Fossil of Alabama and Mississippi.

Although, the last known fossil of Basilosaurus dates back to around 34 million years ago, some cryptozoologists (people who search for rumored or mythical animals, whose actual existence is uncertain) have suggested that some alleged sightings of giant sea serpents and sea monsters could in fact be sightings of living Basilosaurus or a modern living relative.

Basilosaurus Timeline:

Basilosaurus was a cetacean that lived between 40 and 34 million years ago

Basilosaurus was a cetacean that lived between 40 and 34 million years ago

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