Op-Ed: Sea monster found off New Zealand

Posted May 9, 2013 by Paul Wallis
Another day, another monster? Not quite, this time. A large aquatic animal, apparently carnivorous, has washed up in New Zealand. The body is badly decomposed, and suggests a crocodilian head with a twin fin tail.
Orca whale
Orca whale
Minette Layne (CC BY 2.0)
Sydney Morning Herald article suggestions so far contain just about everything:
A marine mammal expert from the Museum of New Zealand, Anton van Helden, told NZ media that based on the creature's fins, it was most likely to be a killer whale. The body had probably been floating around at sea for some time before it washed up, he said.
The orca suggestion isn’t quite so far fetched, despite the apparent crocodilian resemblance. Orca teeth are similarly structured, and hooked. Information from the Orca Project shows distinctly similar teeth.
That said, the “prehistoric beast” theory is quite understandable. About 90 million years ago, you’d have said this thing was probably a Tylosaurus, a marine dinosaur, and you’d also probably have been right.
National Geographic
While the internet is infested with strange monsters whether anyone likes it or not, the reality is that you can usually tell an animal by its teeth. The teeth of the specimen aren’t fish teeth. They’re the teeth of a fish eater. They show a curved hook at the top, slightly but not very different from those of orcas.
This may be an old individual, or perhaps just a local variant on the basic orca model. A large number of empty tooth sockets are also visible. (The sheer number of missing teeth is quite interesting. This animal obviously has a massive bite, and the teeth are completely gone?)
Crocodile teeth are typically much more varied. This creature has very similar teeth throughout its mouth, like an orca. The snout appears shorter than it would if the creature is alive, but if it’s an orca, the blunt snout would appear totally different from this shrunken version.
There appears to be no sign of being eaten by other sea creatures. That’s quite unusual.
The front fins also seem underdone for an orca, which is quite capable of chasing a power boat. There is a possibility that decomposition has altered the proportions of the fins, and the muscle tissue has simply dissolved.
Nobody has suggested a shark with the dorsal fin removed, although the resemblance to a shark is largely superficial. It’s unlikely to be a dolphin, unless the dolphins are doing a retro thing and regressing back to their common ancestor, Zeuglodon, aka Basilosaurus, which was the original toothed whale.
The other problem with being found in New Zealand is that Kiwi land also borders on a huge area of open ocean. It’s possible that marine sub species which haven’t been identified still inhabit the area between Australia/New Zealand and South America. This could be “Orca V.2.12” or something.
The twin tail screams whale of some sort. The size says perhaps orca or false orca, which from memory are actually northerners, not southerners. The pity of it is that nobody’s done an X ray.
One thing is weird about this thing- As a form of marine dessication, it looks more like a form of ossification. If this thing was inshore when it died, it would have been eaten. Not much floats around dead in the sea without something taking a bite out of it. It’d be worth doing a chemical analysis of it to see why this obviously partially dissolved creature is still in one piece.