Rare Beaked Whale Has Left Folks In Massachusetts Confused

Beachgoers visiting a rocky Massachusetts beach stumbled upon a strange site this weekend.  On Friday, the carcass of a beaked whale washed ashore Jones Beach in Plymouth.  The whale is so rarely observed that even New England Aquarium biologists were puzzled when they first saw it, as were local news reporters; The Boston Globe reports it was a Sowerby’s beaked whale, but the Boston Herald identified it as a Cuvier’s beaked whale. Local harbormaster Chad Hunter was also confused, telling the The Boston Globe that “everybody was kind of scratching their heads” at the site.

Not a lot is known about beaked whales in general.  They live most of their lives in deep arctic water and are occasionally seen by New England fisherman. New England Aquarium spokesman Tony La­Casse told the Boston Herald that scientists don’t even have an official population estimate because of their rarity.  “It’s a glimpse into a habitat that’s not so far away, but it’s still a world away. They live in a world of their own,” he said of Friday’s discovery.

Beaked whales have long, slim snouts, are colored a dark purple and resemble large dolphins. The whale discovered on Friday was a female; she measured in at 17-foot long and weighed approximately one ton.  Because of the whale’s weight and location, officials had to wait until 5 p.m. to remove the carcass, reports The Boston Globe.

The last time aquarium biologists handled a beaked whale was in 2006 in Duxbury, officials said in a press release. The recent carcass was reportedly undergoing a necropsy on Saturday afternoon to determine the cause of death.  La­Casse told the Boston Herald that “there were no obvious signs of trauma to the whale that would suggest it became entangled in fishing gear or was struck by a ship.”

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