Sunday Mammalfest, Episode 7

The teeth of the landwhale

The teeth of the landwhale

This landwhale is still in the water. But for how long?

This landwhale is in the water. But for how long?

Apologies for skipping a week. But there is amazing news! Scientists have documented the existence of – the landwhale!

That’s right: long ago, the ancestors of whales split. Most of their descendents became entirely aquatic, losing their legs and becoming incapable of movement on land.

But not all. Some whales can still move on land. And guess what – they can move faster than you. And when they catch you, they will destroy you. Utterly.

You might think you’re safe – you might say ‘don’t a lot of whales have only baleen plates, not teeth? I’m not plankton, I’ve got nothing to worry about.’

The creatures monstrous skull

The creature's monstrous skull

Wrong. The landwhale has bigger teeth relative to body mass than any other species of whale.

You might also think ‘well, the landwhale may be tough, but surely it can’t be as tough as – the sun?

Wrong. The landwhale sweats god-damn sunscreen. This blood-coloured substance, sometimes called ‘bloodsweat’, absorbs ultraviolet radiation from the sun, to keep the landwhale safe and free of sunburn.

They appear to live only in certain river systems in Africa, spending most of their lives underwater. But at night, they emerge to find food on land. Usually this food consists of grasses, but it’s not impossible in principle that it might at some point come to include YOU AND EVERYTHING YOU LOVE.

In its house at R'lyeh this landwhale waits dreaming

There’s evidence that the ancients knew of, and feared, the landwhale – they called it the greatest and most powerful animal on land, and despaired that any except God could kill it. Well, it’s 2009, the landwhale is coming, and where is your God now?

Finally, to emphasise – yes, it really is a whale. By the most rigourous classification methods, it is part of the whale lineage. It cannot be classified into any group separate from the whales without misrepresenting the genetics.

5 Responses to “Sunday Mammalfest, Episode 7”

  1. DOMINO Says:

    And they use crocodiles as a salt-lick!

  2. Lindsay Says:

    OMG, hippos. My partner’s dissertation topic is the evolution of whales, and a big part of the research for it is comparing the bone structures of hippos, whales, and a now-extinct ancestor of both, called the anthracothere.

    (“Anthracothere” means “black beast.” Cue the “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”-quoting).

    Long story short, this means I’ve seen a *LOT* of hippo skulls, and watched the dissection of not one, but two adult hippos (incredibly, that’s a larger sample size than any previous study of hippo anatomy has used; we really don’t know much about the bodies of any non-domesticated animal…)

    Anyway, yes, landwhales are just as interesting as you say. And you really don’t want one mad at you.

    Also, don’t stand very close behind one. They use their tails like fans to disperse poo.

  3. Lindsay Says:

    Didn’t know about the sun-blocking sweat, though. That’s got to be handy.

  4. Alderson Warm-Fork Says:

    Domino and Lindsay, you have increased my confidence regarding this issue. If the creatures can be studied and even domesticated (possibly with the landwhale in that video becoming the single-handed defender of humanity, rather like the in the vampire film ‘Blade’) then the human race may have a chance.

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