POINT REYES NATIONAL SEASHORE (CBS SF) — A rarely seen Baird’s beaked whale that washed up on North Beach in Point Reyes National Seashore was likely killed by injuries suffered in a collision with a large vessel, marine researchers said Tuesday.
The 35-foot-long carcass washed up on the beach earlier this week in a severely degraded condition.
A team of 11 scientists from The Marine Mammal Center, California Academy of Sciences, and Point Reyes National Seashore were sent out to the beach to perform a necropsy on the carcass.
“Beaked whales are a very interesting family of toothed whales that mostly live off the continental shelf edge, foraging in deep canyons to feed on squid,” said Dr. Padraig Duignan, Chief Pathologist at The Marine Mammal Center. “The opportunity to perform a necropsy on such a unique animal that we rarely have the opportunity to examine will help contribute to our baseline data on the species.”
Early in the necropsy, scientists found extensive hemorrhaging near the vertebrae on the left side of the decomposing carcass. Scientists also noted the animal’s fluke had been severed by a sharp object, a possible indication of a vessel collision.
Researchers from the California Academy of Sciences collected bone samples for further study and documentation. Scientists planned to perform a follow-up evaluation of the cetacean’s carcass Thursday to determine whether any vertebrae were fractured and the sex of the animal. A final determination into the cause of death is not yet known.
Baird’s beaked whales are a deep water species that are found in groups ranging from 6 to 30 animals. This is the first Baird’s beaked whale The Marine Mammal Center has responded to in its 41-year history.