A mysterious sea creature that washed up on the shore of an African beach initially had researchers baffled. What was this bizarre 19 foot, 6 inch animal with a beak that was discovered on the coast of Dorob National Park recently? It definitely resembled both a whale and a dolphin, but its condition made it initially difficult to determine what kind of animal it was.
Namibian Dolphin Project (NDP) researcher Dr. Simon Elwen initially couldn’t explain what it was, noting: “On first sighting we had no idea what species it was.” Now scientists believe the mystery animal might be Cuvier’s beaked whale. This animal was also discovered in Namibia in 2000.
Dr. Elwen noted: “The body of this animal was in an advanced state of decomposition — making it look rather un-whale like and there were several confused reports on social media. However, based on the shape of the head and snout and the overall size — research team are fairly confident that the specimen is a Cuvier’s beaked whale.”
A Cuvier beaked whale has a sloped forehead, short beak, curved mouth, and a body shaped like the creature that washed ashore. They can reach lengths of 23 feet and weights of 5,500 pounds. Scientists noted that the animal’s condition didn’t allow them to identify the cause of death, as Dr. Elwen noted: “The lower jawbone was cracked and broken quite severely, however, given the state of the corpse and the absence of any apparent external injuries, the damage to the jaw was possibly post-mortem.”
He added: “I was quite surprised. These animals are rarely seen in the water, so to see them on land is very unique. The team collected a number of samples including the skull of the animal, which will be used for further research.”
Cuvier’s beaked whales reside in deep water regions typically, plunging up to 9,816 feet, with researchers explaining they have stayed up to two miles below water (the equivalent of seven Empire State Buildings on top of one another) for 138 minutes.
Many people weighed in with comments on the Daily Mail‘s coverage of the finding, with some believing it to be a decomposing dolphin, and one commenter noting: “There are more and more reports of whales, dolphins, etc. being washed up or beachings. Very sad. Mankind is ruining their habitat, we cant help it, we have to stop or else there will be no sea life left.”
One commenter agreed, taking it one step farther: “Obviously the ‘mystery’ has been solved. But it does rather say something about the human race that we are down here destroying our own planet and have no idea what’s even on most of it with potentially billions of undiscovered or unresearched plants and animals, but are pumping billions into getting ourselves to another planet and exploring them. Is our ignorance and destruction of our own not enough? Are we going to just keep firing rubbish and man made objects to clutter up space too and eventually force ourselves onto Mars?”
Another commenter added that these “mysterious creatures” shouldn’t be such a mystery after all, explaining: “We keep seeing reports like this. There is nothing strange about it. It’s not alien, or a new species. When blubber decomposes it forms all kinds of weird shapes. Other animals take bites out of it. The result is a very odd looking thing that washes up on the beach.”