A Russian Plesiosaur?

© 2006, Glen J. Kuban
Russian carcass12
Russian carcass"
Russian carcass12
Russian carcass from side"

In August 2006 the englishrussia.com website showed photos of a decayed carcass washed up on a Russian beach, with the following report:

This creature was found by Russian soldiers on Sakhalin shoreline. Sakhalin area is situated near to Japan, itís the most eastern part of Russia, almost 5000 miles to East from Moscow (Russia is huge). People donít know who is it. According to the bones and teeth - it is not a fish. According to its skeleton - itís not a crocodile or alligator. It has a skin with hair or fur. It has been said that it was taken by Russian special services for in-depth studies, and we are lucky that people who encountered it first made those photos before it was brought away.

The cryptomundo.com website noted that the story has changed somewhat, "as it was originally reported that the carcass was found by Russian fishermen, whereas here it was reportedly found by Russian soldiers. The initial description mentioned that the carcass was nearly 7 meters long, approximately 21 feet. It doesnít appear to be that length in these photos."

As is typical when a decayed carcass of a large marine animal washes up and is not immediately recognized, rumors began to circulate that the animal might be some kind of "plesiosaur" or prehistoric sea monster. However, the case is not really very mysterious. Enough of the skull and other parts of the skeleton are visible to say that it is definitely a small-toothed whale, and almost certainly a beluga whale. The skull shape, dentition, and other details are all consistent with a large beluga whale. Shown here is a photograph of a beluga whale skull for comparison. Any differences are readily accounted for by the likelihood that the carcass represents an old, robust individual whose teeth are worn and broken (and possibly damaged after death). The neck is also short, and there are no hind flippers visible to suggest a plesiosaur. The dark "hair" undoubtely represents decayed flesh, which typically becomes darker and fibrous as it decomposes.

Russian carcass12 Beluga skull
Russian carcass head Beluga whale skull from Skullsunlimited.com

As noted, the initially reported length of about 7 meters appears to be exaggerated. Judging by the people standing near the carcass, it appears that about 4 - 5 meters (approx. 13-16 feet) is a more realistic estimate, which is a typical size range for adult male beluga whales. Even if 7 meters (approx. 23 feet) were the true size, it would be within the range of exceptionally large male belugas.[1,2]

References

[1] The On-line Encarta Encyclopedia reports that male beluga whales can attain lengths of 7 meters. http://uk.encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761556290/Beluga.html

[2] The Alaska Department of Fish and Game reports that beluga whales over 20 feet long have occasionally been recorded. http://www.adfg.state.ak.us/pubs/notebook/marine/beluga.php