Body of rare dwarf whale washes up at Haga Haga
The body of a 2.20m rare dwarf sperm whale was found, stranded on a rocky ledge at Haga Haga on the weekend.
A necropsy was undertaken by East London Museum principal scientist Kevin Cole.
Cole said: “The necropsy on the whale sadly revealed an 85cm female foetus and a heavy parasitic worm load in the oesophagus. The latter may have contributed to the cause of death.
Post-trauma was noted on the right-hand side of the head (some light propeller injuries likely caused when the animal was floating in the sea).
“The foetus was in perfect condition displaying all the miniature morphological traits of the mother.
It will be sent for curation to Dr Greg Hofmeyr of Bayworld in Nelson Mandela Bay along with other samples.
“These cetaceans are the smallest of the whale species and are very similar to the pygmy sperm whale with the most distinguishing feature being the dorsal fin.
The dwarf sperm whale has a prominent, falcate fin, similar to a bottlenose dolphin, unlike the larger pygmy sperm whale which has a smaller hooked rounded dorsal fin set well behind the mid-back.
The species examined at Haga Haga had a dorsal fin situated on the mid-back and six pairs of erupted curved teeth on the lower jaw.
“Dwarf sperm whales have a maximum length of 2.74m. Males may grow slightly larger than females. They can weigh between 135kg and 272kg. They mostly feed on squid, fish and some crabs.
The animal examined was a young female at 2.2m and sexual maturity is normally reached at a length of 2.15m in females.
“A section of the lower intestine containing an ‘ink’ sac was also dissected out. This sac allows these whales to employ a ‘squid tactic’ to avoid predators by expelling a reddish-brown liquid to cloud the water in order to conceal their escape.
They live in temperate to tropical waters and are distributed worldwide,” said Cole.
He said he was reasonably confident that the high parasitic load of worms had contributed to the death of the whale, adding that the internal organs of the animal were in good condition and there was no food in the animal’s stomach.
He thanked Connie Oosthuizen and Dr Roger Ellis who found the stranded whale and noted that it had first been seen floating out at sea on Friday...