A rare saber-toothed whale has washed up on Venice Beach after somehow straying thousands of miles from its home.
The whale, which is known for its sharp teeth, is usually found in subarctic waters, leaving scientists puzzled as to why it was in the warm waters of Southern California.
Formally known as the Stejneger’s beaked whale, the animal find was so rare that crews from the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum rushed to recover the 15-foot-long carcass when they found out about it.
“We helped get it out of the water, and it was still alive,” Peter Wallerstein of Marine Animal Rescue told City News Service. “I was kind of shocked because we couldn’t identify it.”
Workers from Marine Animal Rescue took advantage of the find, loading the whale’s carcass onto a flat-bed truck to take it away for a necropsy.
The saber-toothed whale was covered in bites from cookie-cutter sharks, which tear small plugs of flesh from larger animals, but otherwise the body was well-preserved.
Nick Flash, an education specialist with Heal the Bay and an employee at the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium, said he wasn’t sure what killed the whale, but noted that it was alive when it washed on shore.
“We were very lucky,” said Fash, who works at the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium. “These whales are incredibly rare and almost never seen in the wild.”
The whales usually live deep in subarctic waters, feeding on small fish and cephalopods. Their migratory range stretches close to Northern California, but wildlife officials aren’t sure how this one ended up so far off course.
The saber-toothed whale found in Venice Beach could provide a critical glimpse into the species. Scientists said because the marine mammal is so rare, necropsies are one of the most important ways to learn about their bodies and habits.