A number of sources are reporting that a rare beaked whale washed up on a beach in Australia on Tuesday, October 14th. The find was a boon for cetacean researchers who know little about a deep sea animal that spends most of its time diving at depths far offshore.
The 10-to-13-foot-long beaked whale was found washed up on Redhead Beach, around 93 miles north of Sydney. Zoological experts examined the carcass it and took samples before removing the whale’s head and transporting it to the Australian Museum in Sydney.
Knowledge of beaked whale comes largely from stranded animals
The website of whaleresearch.org notes that our knowledge of the beaked whale family is quite limited because of their deepwater oceanic habitats. “What little we know of beaked whales has largely come from stranded animals,” it says.
It also notes that, “Sightings of these elusive creatures at sea are extremely rare due to their long dive times and unobtrusive surfacing behaviour.”
Also of interest, a study published earlier this year in the journal PLOS ONE reported that a tagged Cuvier’s beaked whale dove as deepas 2,992 meters (9,816 feet), while another remained underwater for an amazing 137.5 minutes. Both of these data points represented new mammalian dive records.
Statements from researchers
Researchers and whale experts commented to the media on the finding. “It is sad but also exciting as we can learn so much more about the animal,” Organisation for the Rescue and Research of Cetaceans in Australia president Ronny Ling told AFP.
He went on to say, “We don’t know much about them, we rarely get to see them. We have taken samples and measurements and will remove the head and send it to the Australian Museum. The jaws will be X-rayed and together with DNA it should confirm the species of beaked whale.”
Ling said that in 25 years he had come across few beaked whales. “Some of these species are only known from a handful of strandings,” he said.
Marine biologist Elise Bailey told ABC radio in an interview that she had never come across a beaked whale in her over 20 years of research until today.
“You don’t normally see a beaked whale come into these waters; it’s an oceanic animal and it’s usually going to be way out in very deep offshore waters,” she said, adding we couldn’t tell yet why the whale died. “It could be sick, it could be old, it could have had some trauma,” she commented.