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."