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Saber-toothed whale washes up on California's crowded Venice Beach

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
October 17th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Venice beach in Southern California is home to hippies, punks, street people and all manner of unconventional human life. It takes quite a bit to draw a crowd there ... but that's what happened when a saber-toothed whale, more common in the frost waters of Alaska washed up there. Its unusual appearance had many people there declaring it a "sea monster."

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) The nearly 15-foot, 2,000-pound whale, save for a few shark bites was totally intact. Even more unusual was the fact that the whale, a female, was barely alive when it reached the shore. Whales that wash up on beaches are usually long dead and decomposed, eaten by a variety of marine life.

"It was really humbling and sad to see such a majestic creature stranded this way," Heather Doyle, director of the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium said. Staff naturalist Brittany Corona happened upon a crowd surrounding the whale on the sand. The whale sighting that close in California "is a once in a lifetime opportunity," Doyle added.

It was the second such rare sea monster sighting this week in California. A sea-serpent-like animal called an oarfish was found dead at Catalina Island off the Los Angeles coast three days previously.

Highly reclusive and usually hiding in the deep ocean, the oarfish found in the island's Toyon Bay was particularly huge. Eighteen feet long, 15 people had to hold it chest-high to pose for a trophy photo taken by the Catalina Island Marine Institute.

"They're so rare and unusual looking," Jim Dines of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles said of the oarfish and the saber-toothed whale. "They are like sea monsters, and people really pick up on that."

What were the animals' cause of death global warming, perhaps? "I think it's just really a coincidence," Dines said. "It's too early to tell. If we were to see a whole bunch of these animal strandings, that would give more evidence of something going on."

Dine performed a necropsy on the whale shortly after it was found. The examination showed no signs of trauma such as being hit by a ship and no signs of disease or parasites, Dine said.

The female whale also didn't have any food in her stomach -- aside from ingested plastic or nylon that wasn't enough to kill her, Dine said. He's waiting on testing results of tissue samples to determine a cause of death.

Other marine biologists are excited about the recent discoveries because so little is known about the deep-water animal that lives in the north Pacific. Its strandings typically occur in Alaska or Japan. Its last stranding in southern California was 15 years ago. "There is some speculation that they do migrate in the winter, but it's not certain how far (south) they go," Dines said.

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