A rare, deep-water species of beaked whale washed ashore on Plymouth Long Beach in Plymouth, Massachusetts on Friday, July 24th. Marine biologists and aquarium biologists are investigating the animal’s death by performing a necropsy.
Deep-water Whale Washed Ashore on Plymouth Long Beach
Beach-goers kicking off the weekend in Massachusetts made a shocking discovery when they happened upon the bloated carcass of a beached, beaked whale on the rocks at Plymouth Long Beach on Friday.
The tragic event was perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime happening as these particular whales are rarely ever seen, especially in the Cape Cod Bay area. Marine biologists from the New England Aquarium are investigating the circumstances surrounding the animal’s death. The biologists took the 17-foot carcass to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution to perform a necropsy.
Beached, beaked whale a rare occurrence in Massachusetts
Though there are several species of beaked whales swimming in the Atlantic Ocean, sightings of the large animals, which prefer staying hundreds of miles offshore, is so rare that biologists in Massachusetts haven’t handled a beaked whale for nearly a decade.
Speculations about the species is floating between two theories at the moment, a mixture of the rarity of the find and misinformation from the media. While some news outlets have reported a Cuvier’s beaked whale washed ashore, many other spotters have said this whale was a Sowerby’s beaked whale.
The specimen that washed up exhibited a long, slender snout as seen in pictures provided by the New England Aquarium and weighed around one ton. Preliminary research has estimated the whale to be a female of 7-8 years old.
Marine biologists have a chance to study the rare whale
Authorities handling the case said the whale had been in fairly good condition and had not decayed too quickly. It was also noted that no obvious trauma was present on the carcass, suggesting it had not been hit by a ship nor entangled in fishing nets or lines.
Though the animal is not believed to have suffered physical trauma, a full necropsy by the aquarium biologists will reveal much more information. Biologists have no answer for how the 17-foot long massive animal was able to navigate into such a hard-to-reach spot within the rocks that it reportedly took nearly half the day to dislodge the animal and tow it away.
The animal should have been traveling in a pod of at least three to seven more whales far off from the beach. Instead, somehow, it became wedged between the rocks waiting for someone to come along and discover it.
Although under unfortunate and unforeseen circumstances, the rare whale’s death will in some way benefit the scientific community as marine biologists can study the elusive species with this specimen.
Corrected: July 27th, 2015.