Chilean Experts Say Beached 'Blob' a Sperm
Fri July 11, 2003
02:18 PM ET
Chile (Reuters) - Chilean scientists said on Friday their study of a
huge blob of flesh found on a Pacific beach about three weeks ago
concluded it was the carcass of a sperm whale, ending speculation of
a giant octopus.
Scientists have been baffled by the 40-foot-long mass of
gelatinous tissue found on a remote beach in southern Chile, with
initial hunches ranging from whale blubber to a disputed species of
Researchers at the Museum of Natural History in Santiago were the
first to reach a conclusion after analyzing samples of the decaying
specimen and finding glands of a sperm whale.
"It has not been necessary to do DNA analysis in order to obtain
identification, it was enough to find the dermal glands that belong
only to this group," the scientists Sergio Letelier and Jose Yanez
said in a statement.
The sperm whale, made famous by Herman Melville's Moby Dick, is
the largest of the toothed whales and dives deeper than any other
whale. The males measure up to 65 feet in length and weigh about 50
When a sperm whale dies at sea, it rots until it becomes a
"skeleton suspended in a semi-liquid mass within a bag of skin and
blubber," the scientists said. Eventually, the skin tears and the
bones sinks while the skin and blubber float.
"This washes up and has the appearance of an octopus because the
spermaceti organ keeps its bulky shape," they added.
The spermaceti is a large bulbous organ that forms a sort of
forehead and contains a milky wax which early whalers likened to