The genus Basilosaurus groups the species of cetacean mammals (ancestors of whales) that lived in the Paleogene Period, in the Cenozoic Era.
When they lived in the Cenozoic Era, they did not share an ecosystem with the dinosaurs, but they did share one with the first hominids that were precursors of human beings.
Although the name Basilosaurus means “reptilian king”, it was in fact a mammal, as we have already indicated, and also the ancestor of today’s cetaceans, although the appearance it presented at first sight does not remind us of it.
Basilosaurus lived approximately 45 million years ago in the Late Eocene. As it was a sea animal, its remains have not been found in a single continent but in a great variety of geographical areas.
Do you want to know more about this prehistoric mammal? Then do not miss this article where you will find a wide and detailed information about the Basilosaurus.
Taxonomy of Basilosaurus
- This specimen belongs to the Animalia kingdom.
- The edge of this specimen is that of Chordata.
- The class of this animal is that of Mammalia.
- The underclass is the Eutheria.
- The order of this specimen is Cetacea.
- The suborder of this creature is Archaeoceti.
- The family of this specimen is Basilosauridae.
- The subfamily of this animal is Basilosaurinae.
- The genus referred to in this article is Basilosaurus.
At this point it is necessary to mention that this genus is formed by three species, which are the ones that have been discovered up to the present time thanks to fossil remains: B. Cetoides, B. Drazindai, and B. Isis.
If new fossils belonging to this genus are found in the future, it might also be possible to determine that there were some other species, so we will do our best to keep this section updated.
Discovery of this marine mammal
Among the places where fossil remains of this animal could be found we can highlight the American continent, because in the great state of Alabama explorations were carried out that resulted in the discovery of important discoveries.
On the other hand, we can mention the African continent, within which fossil elements of this animal could also be found, precisely in the country known as Egypt, without forgetting to mention that structures belonging to this creature were also found in the Middle East, precisely in a country known today as Pakistan.
This varied distribution of fossil remains indicates that the animal was able to spread through various places without any problem, and that it adapted to practically any climate, or at least that is what we believe for now.
These theories are due to the fact that its natural environment turned out to be the ocean, since it is a creature of marine nature, and it has also been known that it sailed in shallow waters, very close to the coasts of the continents.
One of the most important qualities of this specimen was the great length that the structure of its body came to represent, all this was really impressive if we compare it with the animal we know today as a whale.
In addition, the Basilosaurus had a pair of extremities located in the back, which were actually a vestige of evolution.
Its extinction, it has been calculated, could have happened more than 35 million years ago, precisely before entering an era known under the official name of Oligocene.
The phenomenon of extinction is believed to have been due to the climatic conditions that came about during those years, variations that greatly affected life throughout the planet Earth, remember that this type of phenomenon was baptized under the name of Grande Coupure.
Characteristics of Basilosaurus
It is possible to think that this extinct animal suffered a transition stage, that is, that it is the result of several mutations caused by the law of evolution, but this is not so.
In fact, what actually happened is that this animal combined various physical qualities both from its ancient direct relatives and from the specimens that we know today as whales, huge marine animals that burst into our oceans today.
It is for that reason that we can clearly differentiate Basilosaurus from the whales we can often see today, and one of these physical differences lies mainly in the jaw region of both specimens.
In the case of the Basilosaurus, it was quite equipped with a set of more than four dozen teeth that turned out to have a lethal edge, arranged and prepared to be able to cut through almost anything that passed through them.
Stopping with more detail in the jaw area, on the one hand we can see that the elements of the front area enjoyed a peculiar design in the form of a common cone, which is why it has been concluded that these teeth fulfilled the function of being able to capture their victims, being vital in the feeding of this extinct animal.
On the other hand, the teeth that were located in the rear area enjoyed a totally different shape, they enjoyed the design of a triangle, so scientists reached the great conclusion that these elements were perfectly designed to be able to tear the body of their prey.
This shape and functionality of the back teeth can also be seen in other well known specimens, which turn out to be the mesonikos.
It is because of this similarity that for many years the mesonikos were taken into account as a true and legitimate ancestor of the main animal of today, but finally the error was noticed and such statement was even denied.
On the other hand, nowadays it has been affirmed that in reality these animals, together with the great modern cetaceans, have the same ancestor
Finally, it turned out that the prehistoric artiodactyl animals were the ancestor of the previously mentioned creatures, a detail of great importance for the world of paleontology.
About the structure of the body of the Basilosaurus we can give an explanation to the great length that this one presented, approximately 20 meters.
Scientists have come to affirm that it was so long because the vertebral elements that formed the spine would have suffered a pronounced stretching and would have supported such process thanks to a strange fluid that kept them in a good state of conservation.
Although we must take this information as a theory, this interesting fact leads us to the conclusion that the animal that is the subject of this article could only have sailed on the surfaces of the ocean.
This is a big difference with the other cetaceans we know today, since the animal obviously did not have the physical qualities to get to dive or swim for a long time underwater.
What we must emphasize is that this theory is widely supported by the other qualities and physical limitations that the animal had, such as its musculature or the thickness of the bony elements of the extremities.
All these qualities indicate us through the reasoning that most probably this extinct animal was not a perfect swimmer by any means.
Unfortunately for the ancient Basilosaurus, its structure was also not perfectly adapted to move through the earth, so its life was really complicated if we consider this.