Mystery after remains of bizarre sea creature wash up on remote beach

Scientists are investigating a deep-sea mystery after the remains of an unidentified creature washed up in Alaska (Image: CREDIT: Pen News/Katie McCaffrey)

Scientists are investigating a deep-sea mystery after the remains of a bizarre ocean creature washed up on a remote beach.
Bjorn Dihle made the bizarre discovery while kayaking in Berners Bay, Alaska, nearly 40miles from the nearest town.

He initially thought the 5ft-long white object was a type of ray but soon realised he had found the innards of something much much larger.
The wilderness guide said: “When I got to the beach, I quickly realized it was the internal organs of something very large.

“The organs looked and felt like a decomposing liver, and smelt like a fish hold that hadn’t been cleaned in a while – a bit like ammonia.”


Bjorn Dihle made the discovery while kayaking in Berners Bay, Alaska (Image: CREDIT: Pen News/Katie McCaffrey)

Experts say they can’t be sure what Bjorn found without a tissue sample, but some think it may be the liver of a Pacific sleeper shark.

But it would be bigger than any that Bjorn – a former commercial fisherman – had ever dragged from the deep.

He said: “I’ve caught a handful of sleepers while commercial fishing for halibut but the biggest was only around eight feet.

“This individual must have been significantly larger. My first thought was whale guts as it was too large for any other marine mammal.”

It’s also unclear how a liver would have become separated from the sleeper – the species is typically found at depths of 6,600ft and has few known predators.

“I’ve heard rumours of sea lions killing sleeper sharks but I’ve also heard of the opposite,” said Bjorn. “The truth is we know very little about sleepers.

“Killer whales certainly could have killed the animal. It’s also possible a fisherman pulled the animal up on a long-line skate and then killed it.”

But if the shark was ripped apart by killer whales, it’s strange that the liver – the safest part to eat – made it to the shore untouched.

“That’s the weird part,” said Bjorn. “I know some sharks can be toxic to eat, especially if not killed and bled in a certain manner.

“But I thought shark liver was nutritious. There were only a couple of sea gulls gingerly picking at it when we showed up.

“Normally when something good to eat washes up on the beach it quickly attracts a horde of scavengers.”

Pacific sleeper sharks can reach lengths in excess of 23ft and often feed on giant Pacific octopuses, as well as porpoises, salmon and a host of smaller creatures.