A species of whale as well known for its saber-like teeth as it is for its rarity washed up on a Southern California beach this week, far from the chilly waters of the North Pacific and the southwest Bering Sea that its family calls home.
The 15-foot-long female Stejneger’s beaked whale, also called a saber-toothed whale, was found Wednesday morning on the shores of Venice Beach, reports the Los Angeles Times.
Although the event is clearly tragic for the whale, the find is a boon for researchers who rarely get an opportunity to study the elusive mammal with a dolphin-shaped head. Males of the species have two large spatulate teeth protruding from the middle of the lower jaw; in some, the teeth grow extremely large.
“This is the best,” said Nick Fash, an education specialist for the Santa Monica-based environmental group Heal the Bay. “(Previous finds) aren’t anything like this.”
The whale was alive when it was stranded, said Peter Wallerstein of Marine Animal Rescue. Its body was covered in bites from “cookie-cutter sharks,” so called for their practice of biting round hunks of flesh from animals they are feeding on.
Although the whales migrate as far south as Northern California, how this one got all the way down to Venice Beach will probably remain a mystery. The carcass was taken to the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum for an autopsy.
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