Giant Rotting Sea Creature Mystery Solved By Scientists
A mysterious 50-foot sea creature drew international attention after washing up and decomposing on a beach in Indonesia last week. Pictures showed the behemoth looked unlike anything the public had seen before, prompting inquiries into just what the massive animal could have been.
Scientists appear to have solved that mystery, at least partly. Most experts agreed the rotting corpse was likely that of some sort of whale, though exactly what kind remained unknown.
The bloated creature was found on Hulung Beach on Serum Island in Indonesia’s Maluku province. Thirty-seven year-old resident Asrul Tuanakota happened upon it accidentally at night, first mistaking it for a stranded boat.
Pictures showed the giant animal’s decomposing skin turning the surrounding waters red. Initial suggestions speculated that the creature could have been a giant squid, but most scientists agreed, based on the images, that couldn’t be the case.
“Giant squids are invertebrates and there are clearly bones visible (jaw, skull, vertebrate) so I am very comfortable saying it’s some type of rorqual whale,” Regina Asmutis-Silvia, executive director of Whale and Dolphin Conversation, told the Huffington Post. “Certain species of baleen whales (rorquals) have ventral grooves which run from their chin to their belly button. It is a stretchy tissue that expands when they feed.”
Other experts agreed it was likely a type of baleen whale, which would account for some of the red discoloration surrounding the animal.
“Whales are full of oil, and it’s kind of orangey,” Moe Flannery, the collections manager in ornithology and mammalogy at the California Academy of Sciences, told Live Science, noting that the coloring was probably a mixture of blood and oil.
While most guesses concluded it was some type of baleen whale, discerning the species based just off images would be impossible. Scientists in the area took samples of the body in order to find out definitively what it was, but the results had not yet been revealed.
“[Based] on the images and videos, in the advanced state of decomposition, it is not possible to determine whether it is a humpback whale or not,” Marcus Chua, a museum officer at the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum told Mashable. He noted that it might be a baleen whale, but also nixed the idea of it being a giant squid because they are not usually present in the area.
Though the DNA results have not yet come back, residents in the area have a bigger concern: the smell. The creature has begun to reek and locals asked the government to step in to remove it before it gets any worse.
At the very least, scientists concluded the washed up creature was certainly not a species unknown to humans.
“There is lots of stuff in the ocean that we don’t know about,” Alexander Werth, a whale biologist at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, told Live Science. “But there’s nothing that big.”