Another day, another carcass that has "mystery creature" headlines singing! 

In the days since it turned up on the English coast, this grisly carcass has been called "a puzzle to scientists", a "sea serpent" and, best of all, "Morgawr of folklore fame". We're sorry to burst the bubble here, but this beast is no mythical creature.

The carcass was found by local resident Chris Crane on the beaches of Charlestown, a village on the south coast of Cornwall. "At first I thought it might be a dolphin or a seal, but as I got closer I could see it was something a bit bigger and an odd shape,” he told local news outlet Pirate FM UK. "Someone has suggested it could be a pilot whale – but to me, the head shape looked wrong."

After checking in with Dr Joy Reidenberg, a comparative anatomist who specialises in whales, we can confirm that hunch was actually correct.

"It's definitely a whale," Reidenberg said. "It looks like a small whale in the dolphin family, with a broad face based on the skull (clearly visible). I think I can see some black skin, and based on the location, it is likely a pilot whale."

The ID comes as no surprise, as the area has become something of a hotspot for sightings of washed-up dolphins and porpoises in recent weeks. According to the Cornwall Wildlife Trust, over 100 small cetaceans have turned up dead here – 76 of them in January alone. Wildlife officials are now investigating the possible reasons for this spike.

While we still don't know for sure what's causing the deaths, the activities of trawl fisheries in the area appear to be at least partly to blame. Of the carcasses found last month, 13 showed clear signs of entanglement in fishing nets.

The latest find, however, was in an advanced state of decay, making it almost impossible to determine the cause of death. Still, the sighting does suggest that the Cornish strandings are continuing. 


Top header image: Hélène Surmont/Flickr