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Riverhead Foundation: True's Beaked Whale Calf Died Before Mother

Both the lactating adult female and the calf were in poor condition.

Above, the adult female that was lactating, and the male calf, below, are both True's beaked whales that were found within one day of each other on Southampton Town beaches. Credit: Chris Brenner/Riverhead Foundation
Above, the adult female that was lactating, and the male calf, below, are both True's beaked whales that were found within one day of each other on Southampton Town beaches. Credit: Chris Brenner/Riverhead Foundation

The two rare True's beaked whales found dead one day apart on neighboring beaches in the Town of Southampton were likely mother and calf, the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation concluded in its findings.

In a report released on Friday, the organization that responded to the strandings of the rare species said the male calf, found dead on a Bridgehampton beach on Monday, died two to three days before the lactating adult female, which washed up on a Southampton Village beach on Sunday. Though the female washed up first, she is believed to have been seen thrashing about on Flying Point Beach earlier on Sunday morning, before being found dead further west.

Both were in poor condition, and the calf was malnourished. Biologists performed necropsies on both at the Long Island Aquarium and Exhibition Center.

True's beaked whales have an unusual distribution in that it is found on both sides of the North Atlantic, Australia and South Africa, the Riverhead Foundation said. "Based on available strandings and sightings, it is the only ziphiid with a true anti-tropical distribution. North Atlantic records of this species are mainly from warm-temperate waters. That is why its stranding here is rare," the foundation wrote.

The adult female whale measured 15 feet in length and weighed about 1 ton, or 2,000 pounds. The Riverhead Foundation reported no indications of human interaction, such as being struck by a ship.

The male calf measured about eight feet long and weighed about 400 pounds Its carcass had evidence of scavenger damage and the tissue was marked by decomposition, according to the foundation.

Tissues were collected from both for histopathology, virology, parasitology and toxicology, some of which could take four to six weeks for results.

The skulls were transported to the Computerized Scanning & Imaging Facility of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

"The skulls will be examined with biomedical micro-imaging techniques to determine if there are any evident pathologies or trauma in addition to examining the basic head anatomy for this rare species," the foundation said. Cerebral tissue samples will be collected study, and "the senior scientist and CSI Facility Director will perform biomechanical experiments to investigate the significant tissue paths for hearing and the best response frequencies for the mechanical components of the ears."

Bbambi January 10, 2014 at 06:00 PM
The sand pumps can be heard over 3 miles from the beach over land. The pipes under water are like gigantic amplifiers. Even if this project didn't contribute to the death of these 2 beautiful animals, why is NO ONE talking about its effect on all the sonar dependent cetaceans for miles around?? Mind boggling.
Juss Bean Honest January 11, 2014 at 07:28 AM
Sorry to be so ignorant but what project are you talking about? Seems like these two were so lost. Sad.
Bbambi January 11, 2014 at 08:04 AM
There is a giant Beach/sand renourishment project in progress in Southampton town (currently in Sagaponack) which involves mammoth machinery, miles of enormous pipes reaching off shore to pump sand back to widen the beaches where erosion has taken sand away. It looks like Kilgore Texas or the Alaska pipeline up close and one can hear the derricks far north of Montauk Hwy chugging away. Closer to the ocean it's deafening- like being trapped in an MRI macine forever. If you've ever noticed how long and loud the sound of one Cigarette boat can be passing by you if you are on the beach and it is traveling through the ocean, multiply that exponentially in volume and duration. PLUS, imagine the turmoil and turbulence happening underwater as millions and millions of cubic feet of sand are vacuumed up into the pipes aling with all sea life and plant matter that happens to be in reach. There are many shells and giant rocks and other things on the beach we've never seen before because they belong way off shore- some pink scallops for instance. Can't be good.
Juss Bean Honest January 11, 2014 at 09:01 AM
Thank you for so much information. Where is the outrage? I had no idea because I"m located further west. Who is funding such a project? Individuals?
Joey Racano January 11, 2014 at 04:25 PM
The project you speak of isn't a good thing but that's not the cause of this- there are several other likelihoods, including Navy Sonar war games, to which Beakers are the most susceptable of all creatures On FB stop navy sonar testing

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