Rare Whale Strands

A 598 kg adult female Gervais’ beaked whale was found dead, washed ashore on Atlantic Beach January 23, 2015.  Beaked whales are not frequently seen, and discovery of one of these deep water whales provides scientists with rare and valuable insights into their lives.   This whale was just over 5 meters long and the NC Stranding Network team has been carefully examining all aspects of the animal’s anatomy assessing the probable cause of stranding and death.  Though it is relatively easy to identify a beaked whale to genus (Mesoplodon), which has only 2 teeth, which are not fully erupted if at all,  identifying the species is much more challenging.   The expertise of stranding network experts along with the availability of portable x-ray equipment allowed the rapid identification of this whale as a Gervais’ beaked whale ( Mesoplodon europaeus).

Me-JMS-038 mandible VD cropped

Radiograph of the mandible of the rare Gervais’ beaked whale showing the characteristic two unerupted teeth or tusks.