Temporal range: Langhian
|An artist's illustration and size comparrasion of Albicetus oxymycterus|
Boersma & Pyenson, 2015
| †Albicetus oxymycterus|
Albicetus is a genus of stem-sperm whales that lived around 15 million years ago, found in Santa Barbara, California in 1909. It was originally wrongly categorized for decades as belonging to a group of extinct walruses. It was named Albicetus, meaning "white whale," a reference to the leviathan in Herman Melville's classic 1851 novel Moby Dick, centering on Captain Ahab's obsession with a huge white sperm whale.
It was originally classified as a species of the extinct walrus Ontocetus in 1925. At the time, the whereabouts of the holotype of Ontocetus emmonsi were considered unknown, even though Remington Kellogg considered it a member of Physeteridae.
In 1994, the holotype of Ontocetus emmonsi was relocated in the collections of the Smithsonian Institution, and in 2008 a comprehensive paper was published demonstrating that the Ontocetus generitype was a walrus, not a sperm whale. Hence, Ontocetus oxymycterus, which was not a walrus, was reassigned to Scaldicetus because of its enameled teeth. However, Scaldicetus, being based on teeth, was hardly diagnostic at the genus or even familial level, and so in 2015 the new generic name Albicetus was coined for Ontocetus oxymycterus.