Rare beaked whale washes ashore on NJ beach

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Animal rescue crews responded to a call about a rare ocean mammal that washed ashore on a Jersey Shore beach Thursday.

The Marine Mammal Stranding Center was called around 6 a.m. after a dead, medium-sized whale had washed onto the sand at St. Clair Avenue in Spring Lake, according to the group's Facebook post. The animal was determined to be part of the beaked whale family, and the 13-foot carcass was taken to the Animal Health Diagnostic Lab of the state's Department of Agriculture in Trenton, where a necropsy would be performed.

Finding a beaked whale on a New Jersey beach (or a beach anywhere) is rare: Only 19 beaked whales of four different species have been found by the Marine Mammal Stranding Center since 1978.

The whales, according to the animal group, are named for their "narrow rostrums," or the beak-like part of their head that extends out. Determining between the species of the toothed whales can be difficult due to their slight anatomical differences, the center said.

Beaked whales are also one of the least-known groups of marine mammals because they tend to live in deeper waters well offshore, and spend very little time on the surface, where people would be able to notice them closer. They also are quite elusive, according to the Marine Mammal Stranding Center, making it difficult for researchers to study them.

The number of beaked whales living worldwide is not known. It was not clear what may have led to the death of the whale that washed on shore at the Monmouth County beach.

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