Skeleton Hanging In Alaskan School Gym May Belong To An Undescribed Species Of Whale

The skeleton has been on display since 2004, when the carcass washed up on the island of Unalaska. Unalaska City School District/NOAA

A new species of whale living in the cold waters of the Bering Sea may have just been discovered. Originally thought to have been an odd variety of Baird's beaked whale, genetic analysis and a comprehensive review of the whale’s appearance suggest that the cetacean could in fact be new to science, and the skeleton of one of the animals may have been hanging unidentified in a school gym this whole time.

After the carcass of an odd-looking whale washed up in Alaska in 2014, scientists set out to see if the remains may be from an as yet undescribed species. Researchers conducted DNA analysis on 178 beaked whale samples collected from right across the northern Pacific Rim and stored in collections such as the Smithsonian Institution and Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, as well as samples taken from whale meat markets in Japan.

They found that from these collections, they could identify eight samples taken from the as yet unnamed whale, and that the skeleton now hanging in the gym hall of Unalaska High School also comes from this mysterious cetacean. The results have been published in the journal Marine Mammal Science. Yet it seems that the whale may have been known about for much longer, even if people didn’t realize it at the time.

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