Sydney: The rare beaked whale was found on Waitpinga beach in February in Australia, stumped examiners from the South Australian Museum who discovered two mysterious teeth never before seen in the deep water species.
Local scientists launched appeals to colleagues around the world to try and unravel the mystery but have as yet come no closer to uncovering the reason for the extra small and pointy fangs in the underwater beast.
Some specialists believe the teeth could be an ‘evolutionary throwback’ or a trait that re-emerges after generations.
Dr Catherine Kemper told ABC: “As we were doing the dissection, after we’d done our measurements and photos, we started to the look at the jaws because that’s one of the distinctive parts of a beaked whale.
“They were very odd. I didn’t know what it was, because these teeth were something I had never seen before.
“My mind was thinking, ‘do we have something new here?’.”
Beaked whales live deep down in the depths of the ocean waters and are very rarely seen alive by humans.
After they had stripped the whale’s skull clean the museum’s collection manager, David Stemmer, wrenched the tooth out and was amazed to find a larger tooth underneath the first one.
That discovery confirmed the juvenile female was not a new species but rather an unusual specimen of one already known to science.
Stemmer said: “It was still exciting and although we now knew we had a species we know, it’s a species we don’t get very often and it’s only the third specimen we have collected here in South Australia.”
The museum hopes that the carcass will help them understand more about the rare species and aid the team in conservation.
Dr Kemper added: “Without that knowledge, it’s just very difficult to know what’s going on and to monitor whether they’re doing alright.”