Everyone like a good mystery skull (except the animal who left it, of course), and this one is a large one.
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection was summoned to check out a truly huge skull after a storm in the state. Unsure what it was, they turned to the Internet for assistance, which proved to be less than helpful, even if individuals were technically correct in their assessment that it was “some Donnie Darko-ish nightmare right there.”
Answers ranged from “octopus beak” to “Jimmy Hoffa”, and obviously Cthulu.
Thankfully, it’s neither Big Bird’s skull nor Cthulu’s progeny. Joy Reidenberg, a whale biologist and comparative anatomist who specializes in marine animals, certified to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection that it is the skull of a minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) and that she would gladly adopt it.
They are the smallest of the “great whale” family, yet they are unquestionably big, reaching lengths of up to 10.7 meters (35 feet) and weighing up to 9,072 kilograms (20,000 pounds). The whales are filter feeders with enormous lower jaws that can expand to nearly 90 degrees.
Smaller prey is forced into their mouths by the pressure before they clench shut. Killer whales use their large tongues to drive water out through the baleen, which are rows of hair-like material that allow water to pass through while retaining the whale’s food.