Beaked whale necropsy, East London (SA)

It was with great sadness that the team (see the previous post 18th July 2012)) had to dissect the stranded whale. The purpose of this was to retain skeletal material for further research and identification of the species. Important here is the lower mandible as most species of these cetaceans have two teeth which erupt in adulthood. The stranded species had no teeth visible and the lower mandible may reveal the shape and size of the teeth which will confirm whether or not it is a True’s beaked whale.

The dissection revealed that the animal was choked up with hundreds of parasitic worms (yet to be identified). This may have caused its death.

All skeletal material was labelled and will be accessioned into the Bayworld Museum (Port Elizabeth) collection for future reference and research. Adults of these species can reach a length of 5 m and feed mainly on squid as they are an oceanic and deep diving sea mammal.

We await official confirmation as to whether this sub-adult male (identified during the necropsy by the presence of testes) is Mesoplodon mirus.

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About East London Museum Science

Conservation Biologist East London Museum South Africa
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