Rare Beaked Whale Washes Up in Australia

2411 Rare Beaked Whale Washes Up in Australia

A rare beaked whale washed up on Redhead Beach near Newcastle on the coast of New South Wales. Very little is known about these deep-sea cetaceans, and most of what we do know comes from wash-ups and strandings. "It is sad but also exciting as we can learn so much more about the animal," Ronny Ling of the Organisation for the Rescue and Research of Cetaceans in Australia (ORRCA) tells AFP. "We don't know much about them, we rarely get to see them.”
An ORRCA worker discovered the beaked whale one morning earlier this week, and the organization posted some stunning pictures on their Twitter and Facebook pages. Based on the photos, some experts have identified the animal as Gray’s beaked whale (Mesoplodon grayi), a medium-sized whale that lives in waters deeper than 2,000 meters in the southern hemisphere. Reliable sightings are exceedingly rare, and when they die, it’s usually so far from shore that only a handful of carcasses wash up a year.

Various samples and measurements were taken from the four-meter-long whale’s carcass, and the head will be sent to the Australian Museum. "The jaws will be X-rayed and together with DNA it should confirm the species of beaked whale,” Ling adds. The number of teeth in its upper jaw are good species indicators if the whale is male; females don’t have teeth so the researchers will turn to DNA if that’s the case. 


So far, the cause of death remains undetermined. "There were no obvious signs of injuries, it could be old age or internal problems. We don't know at the moment," Ling tells Mashable. The body will be buried in a hidden location by the Lake Macquarie Council. This deters trophy hunters but keeps the bones accessible -- they can be exhumed for further research later on.

Earlier this year, researchers tracking eight Cuvier’s beaked whales (Ziphius cavirostris) -- which are also notoriously difficult to study -- reported two new mammalian records for dive depth and duration. One tagged whale dove 2,992 meters below the surface, and another remained below the surface for 2 hours, 17 minutes, 30 seconds. 

Images: ORRCA Inc’s Facebook


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