I have a photo, but I think I'll keep it under wraps. It's not pretty. (And if you're squeamish, you may want to skip the next paragraph.)
The body, twisted and torn, was lying on the rocks just out of reach of the latest high tide, almost dry. The skin on the legs and back was mostly intact, still slightly hairy. The feet, badly deformed, looked as if they had been flippers. There was no head; the vertebrae, stained black, stretched out of a gaping neck hole.
I found the skull a few steps farther down the beach, and the jaw just beyond that. They were cleaned and dry.
|Skull, as found. The whole nose area and upper jaw are missing.|
|Turned over. The remaining portion of the skull is a bit bigger than my clenched fist.|
|And the lower jaw. Interesting four-pronged teeth. The back tooth is gone.|
Teeth, flippers, hair, skull sutures, size: they made identification easy. It was a harbour seal. It must have died in the water, swollen and floated, and was washed ashore with the highest tide. I wonder how it was that the head and jaw were so thoroughly picked clean, while most of the body was left to rot.
The ocean is full of mysteries.