Mobile Bay dead whale exam reveals sex, length, food it ate – al.com
The first sperm whale ever recorded in Mobile Bay, which was euthanized by biologists on Nov. 25, has been examined and some necropsy results have been released showing it was a young male, 33 and a half feet long.
No weight was released, although it has been estimated at about 15 tons. There were some squid beaks and crab shells in the stomach, showing remains of some of the last food it ate.
No reason for the whale’s stranding has been determined yet, according to the statement from the Dauphin Island Sea Lab. The whale was first sighted on Nov. 19 near Week’s Bay.
The appearance of a sperm whale in Mobile Bay was so unheard of – typically only two sperm whales a year ever beach in the entire Gulf of Mexico – that it indicates that there was something terribly wrong to begin with, said Dr. Ruth Carmichael, marine biologist at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab.
The Sea Lab on Thursday posted an explanation of why it chose euthanasia as the proper response to handling the whale’s situation. The whale’s carcass was removed from the bay for study by scientists.
“The whale was transported to secured, private property for necropsy to determine cause of stranding,” Carmichael said.
Dauphin Island Sea Lab biologists and collaborators from Gulf World Marine Institute, the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge, and the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies completed the necropsy of the whale. They will now bury it at an undisclosed location.
“The cause of stranding was not immediately determinable on gross necropsy,” they said. “Samples have been sent for additional analyses such as bacterial, viral, or fungal infections, histology, and toxicology, among others.”
The Sea Lab also posted common questions, along with responses:
1. How long can the analysis take?
It usually takes a few weeks to receive results and sometimes longer depending on the tests.
2. Where do the samples go?
Some analyses are analyzed at DISL and in collaboration with local analytical facilities. Other samples are sent to expert analytical facilities around the country.
3. What will the samples tell researchers?
The samples will provide the same types of information your doctor receives when they test you for illness. For example, blood samples can tell us about organ function, inflammatory and infectious processes, nutritional health, and more. Histology can also tell us about disease processes, and we test for a variety of common bacterial and viral infections and possible toxin or contaminant exposure among other diagnostics.
4. What was in the stomach?
There was little content in the stomach but some remains of squid (beaks) and crustacean shell pieces (possibly crab shells). These prey are known in the sperm whale diet.
5. What will happen with the whale’s body?
Following necropsy, the whale carcass was buried at a NOAA-approved, secure location.
Published at Sun, 29 Nov 2020 18:20:00 +0000