A unique ancient whale fossil has been discovered in Rhodes, Greece. The whale named Polychronis Stamatiadis, is a 1,400,000 (or 1.4 million) year-old relative of orcas and false killer whales and lived in our oceans during the Pleistocene period. The fossil whale is about five metres long - a similar size to a false killer whale.
The ancient whale’s teeth are smaller than those of false killer whales and orcas and lack the deep grooves which are adaptions for crunching bones. This suggests the ancient whale hunted only small fish and not marine mammals like orcas and false killer whales do today. It also means that the evolution to hunt larger prey was a relatively recent occurrence – perhaps only within the last million years.
This discovery also questions the popular theory that gigantic baleen whales, such as blue whales and fin whales, evolved to be huge to protect themselves from orcas. Baleen whales were huge for a few three million years before orcas and false killer whales began hunting them!