"An Exciting Mystery From the Deep": Beached Whale Could Be Extremely Rare

Whale is second ocean rarity to surface in Southern California this week

By Samantha Tata
|  Monday, Oct 21, 2013  |  Updated 7:58 AM PDT
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    A rare beaked whale that washed ashore in Venice this week may be an even more unique creature than originally thought, experts said Thursday.

    The female creature washed ashore alive sometime Tuesday night, but did not survive until morning, according to Santa Monica-based Heal the Bay.

    Covered in bites from a cookiecutter shark, the whale was originally thought to be a Stejneger’s beaked whale usually found in the subartic waters of Alaska and almost never seen alive, Heal the Bay said.

    But as experts further studied the massive mammal, it became clear that the whale may be an even rarer species: a Ginkgo-toothed beaked whale.

    PHOTOS: Rare Whale Washes Ashore in SoCal

    That type of whale has been stranded less than 20 times worldwide: twice in the entire eastern North Pacific and just once in Southern California in 1954, according to an update from whale researcher Alisa Schulman-Janiger posted on Heal the Bay’s Facebook page.

    It's not clear how the whale died and further tests are being done.

    Schulman-Janiger said her husband is studying the whale’s skull and will send its embedded teeth to beaked whale expert Dr. Jim Mead and tissue samples to the National Marine Fisheries Service for genetic testing.

    “What an exciting mystery from the deep!” she said.

    Whatever its species, the whale was the second ocean rarity to come from Southern California waters this week.

    A 18-foot oarfish -- a scarcely seen creature likely responsible for sea serpent legends throughout history -- was hauled out of the water near Catalina Island Sunday. An expert told NBC4 that he's never seen an oarfish that mature in his 30-year career.

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