A dead whale belonging to a species that's rarely seen washed up on a Sonoma County beach last weekend, according to The Marine Mammal Center.
The pygmy sperm whale, an adult female that was pregnant and roughly 8 feet long, was discovered Sunday morning at North Salmon Creek Beach, the center said.
Scientists performed a necropsy, also known as an animal autopsy, to determine how the whale died. The final necropsy report is still pending.
The center said this is only the fourth pygmy sperm whale it's been able to study in its 45-plus year history.
"Whale necropsies are critical to provide insights into the overall health of these animals and their ocean environment, including human activity that can impact them, with the goal of understanding how best to protect these magnificent animals," Barbie Halaska, necropsy manager at The Marine Mammal Center, said in a statement. "The opportunity to examine a pygmy sperm whale along the California coast is invaluable because it allows us to build important baseline data on this little-known species."
The center said pygmy sperm whales dive deep and spend less time near the surface than other whales, which explains why they're hardly ever seen.