Recently I did a cover illustration for Bay Soundings, a colorful and informative publication that focuses on estuary issues in Tampa Bay. The story dealt with the ancient creatures that once inhabited our area. Here’s a little info on BASILOSAURUS.
This creature swam through the blue depths of the sea, fearing nothing. He’s an apex predator, the biggest animal on the planet, twice as long as a city bus, weighing more than seven tons. His head is as big as a SUV, with jaws that could swallow a human whole and huge teeth to rip and rend anything alive. When he rises to the surface for a gulp of air through his dorsal intake, he exhales a geyser into the sky and his inhale sounds like a train whistle. Even as huge as his body is, it’s very flexible; he swims with an eel-like motion so fast that no prey can escape him, leaving a wake behind him that makes its own current. His name is Basilosaurus, and his skeleton shows vestigial feet, evidence he evolved from an even older kind of land animal.
He went extinct 34 million years ago, but you can find his cousins all around the bay and Gulf. They are often seen frolicking around our boats — those lovable, aquatic, air-breathing mammals with vestigial feet called “dolphins.”