Mystery blob probe

International labs get samples of Chilean beach blob, whale blubber is leading theory but giant octopus not ruled out

Catherine Zandonella(catzan@nasw.org)
Jul 8, 2003

The 12-meter-long mass of gray flesh that washed ashore in Chile 2 weeks ago is probably decaying whale blubber, say experts, but they'll know for certain when samples arrive in labs today (July 9) for testing. Until then, the possibility cannot be ruled out that the blob might be the first-ever specimen of a giant octopus, the kind that, legend says, plucks fishermen from their canoes.

"I'd bet you lunch its a whale," said Sidney Pierce, a marine biologist at the University of South Florida. Pierce has analyzed several such blobs, including a historic blob that washed ashore near St. Augustine, Florida, in the late 1800s and at the time was thought to be a giant octopus. Through electron microscopy and analysis of amino acids from a sample stored at the Smithsonian Institution, Pierce determined in 1995 that the creature was a deboned and decayed whale.

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