Monday, July 4, 2022
NewsTragic find of newborn sperm whale proves first recorded visit to Scottish...

Tragic find of newborn sperm whale proves first recorded visit to Scottish waters by female

SCIENTISTS have confirmed the first recorded visit by a female sperm whale to Scottish waters – after its newborn calf was found stranded on a beach.

The remains of the tragic male newborn – which was more than 3.3m (11ft) long – were found on South Uist in the Western Isles.

The state of the whale suggests its mother gave birth nearby despite the fact females of the species rarely venture further north than the seas around Cornwall, more than 500 miles south.

Experts from the Scottish Marine Animal Strandings Scheme (SMASS), who examined the remains, said there has only been one recorded stranding of a female sperm whale anywhere in the British Isles.

The baby, which was discovered on October 18 on a beach, was 337cm long, which is close to the birth length for new-born sperm whales.

The umbilicus cord was still present and they discovered from the lungs that it had never taken a breath and was either aborted, stillborn, or died during the birth process.

However, tests are still being run in the young calf to see if there is any evidence of infection which may help indicate why and if it was aborted.

A photograph of the whale’s remains

In pictures shared by SMASS, the body looks battered and bruised with the mouth to revealing its teeth.

Very graphic images show the whale being autopsied, including one which shows bruising around its skull.

The presence of the mother off the Western Isles is unique, said Mariel ten Doeschate, an expert with SMASS.

She said: “This would be the first time a female sperm whale was recorded in Scottish waters and the second in British waters.

“It is incredible. It’s never been recorded before until the first stranding of a female sperm whale in Cornwall in 2016.

“Female sperm whales are not supposed to travel this far north. It is just so unusual. Maybe this is a one off or maybe this is a result of different surface levels. ”

She added: “When we got the phone call about the baby whale. We all thought that couldn’t be the case.

“We then saw the photographs and got more information that confirmed it was a baby sperm whale. We then got on a ferry to South Uist.”

The calf was discovered in a pile of seaweed by a local volunteer.

The whale’s remains situated on the beach

It is believed to be have been dead for no more than 10-14 days by the time of the post mortem examination.

SMASS posted yesterday that they had “just returned from what can only be described as a very special examination of a very rare stranding; that of a neonatal Sperm whale on the island of South Uist”.

They added: “The reason why this is so unusual is, whilst male sperm whales are known to do large migrations and are frequently visitors to the waters around the UK, female sperm whales usually remain in temperate and tropical waters mainly below 50° latitude.

“There is only one confirmed record of a female sperm whale stranding on any of the British isles; this was a juvenile that stranded in Cornwall in July 2016.

“This case of a neonatal calf, found in reasonable fresh condition, suggests its mum must have been close to the coast of the Western Isles. This is a long way north from where these animals are thought to give birth.

“At 337cm long, this young male was very close to the birth length recorded for sperm whales and the umbilicus was still present.

“The lungs gave us some vital information- they sank like a rock in water, showing they had never inflated and indicating that this animal had never taken a breath.

Related Stories