BOLINAS (CBS SF) — The body of a 79-foot-long blue whale that washed ashore in Marin County had injuries consistent with being struck by a ship, according to an expert from the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito.

“We found several broken ribs and, when that happens, we also want to look to see if there’s evidence of hemorrhage. That means that it happened before death,” Dr. Claire Simeone told KPIX 5.

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The whale was discovered off Agate Beach in Bolinas on Thursday. Scientists from the Marine Mammal Center described it as a sub-adult female. They collected skin and blubber samples on Friday and performed a necropsy Saturday.

Blue whales are the world’s largest animal and they’re endangered. It’s estimated there are only between 10,000 and 25,000 blue whales worldwide today. About 2,800 live off the California coast.

Based on fluke markings, this particular whale was first spotted in 1999. It’s been seen about a dozen times, mostly near the Santa Barbara Channel.

Her death drew quite a crowd.

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“It looks like the whale was pretty badly injured,” said beachgoer Jonathon Goldman. ” So, that was just the morbid curiosity of it.”

Goldman brought his family to check out the whale but says he’d much rather have seen the animal alive and in the open ocean, than beached and broken.

“It’s quite shocking I would say to see a creature of such beauty and magnificence so damaged and washed up. I guess you don’t normally see them on beaches.”

The whale’s body was mostly intact. Researchers say it’s rare to find a carcass in such good condition and that could help them learn more about the species. They hope what they learn from the tests performed will help them prevent future deaths in this critically endangered population.

“This is an endangered species, this is the largest animal on earth. It’s magnificent and sad to see them here on the beach … we want to see them in the wild,” Dr. Simeone said.

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