Don't tell Ahab: scientists find the real great white whale

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Scientists on Wednesday said fossils unearthed in 1909 in Santa Barbara, Calif., that had been wrongly categorized for decades as belonging to a group of extinct walruses were the remains of a fearsome sperm whale that swam the Pacific Ocean 15 million years ago during the Miocene Epoch.

They named it 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.

"Because the fossil specimen is a pale white color, and an ancient sperm whale, it seemed appropriate to honor Melville's infamous whale," researcher Alex Boersma of the Smithsonian Institution's Museum of Natural History in Washington, told Reuters News.