Tetrapod Zoology

Tetrapod Zoology

Amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals - living and extinct

Identify the Baja California mystery whale carcass!


We all love identifying – or, trying to identify – weird carcasses. Back in December 2011, marine biologist and world chiton expert Douglas Eernisse of the University of California (Santa Cruz) sent me the series of photos you see here and below. They show a smallish cetacean (total length about 3 m), found beached and in partly decomposed condition at Loreto, Baja California. A large damaged region on the animal’s tailstock seemed to demonstrate death by collision with a boat.

The people who discovered the carcass identified it as a Pygmy sperm whale Kogia breviceps and noted that it possessed the asymmetrical blowhole typical for sperm whales. Hmm.. oh really?

Douglas and I have been discussing the carcass in an effort to identify it, but in the interests of sharing the fun, I have Doug’s permission to post the images here. Check out the many anatomical details you can see in the photos and see if you can pin down the carcass’s precise identity. To the winner – the spoils!

Thanks again to Douglas Eernisse for the photos. For previous Tet Zoo articles on weird marine mammal carcasses, see...

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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