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Stranded Sowerby’s beaked whale in Loch Ewe

Gairloch Marine skipper, Ian French was called to the stranding of a small whale on the shores of Loch Ewe on Friday the 26th January. Unfortunately on arrival the whale was dead, probably within the last 48 hours. Ian, a marine biologist and marine mammal medic, initially identified the whale as a young northern bottlenose whale, however when conditions improved the animal was ratified as a Sowerby’s beaked whale.

The SAC at Inverness was contacted and an autopsy carried out, which revealed that the female was heavily pregnant with a well developed foetus, with a pronounced melon. This has cast further doubt as to the cetacean’s identity, which may turn out to be a true’s beaked whale.

Samples were taken of all the major organs, none of which gave any clues to cause of death, in fact all signs indicate a very healthy whale. The rostrum and jaw bones were heavily smashed and shattered, maybe the whale was hit by something or maybe this was caused as it was washed ashore? The foetus, skull and tissue samples were taken back to the labs in Inverness for analysis and a second set of samples are to be taken to the Natural History Museum in London.

Photographs and text by Ian French, Gairloch Marine Life Centre & Cruises

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