Whale of tale for scientists
THE body of a rare whale is allowing scientists to understand both the species and marine pollution after its skeleton was exhumed at the WA Museum depot in Welshpool last week.
The 4.5m, 1.5-tonne Andrews’ beaked whale washed ashore dead on Swanbourne beach in November 2018.
What little about the is known deep-water species comes from about 35 strandings in Australia and New Zealand, and the museum had only two skulls before the complete skeleton was uncovered.
After a necropsy of the carcass, most of the flesh was removed and remainder frozen before it was partially buried and covered with mushroom straw at the depot last August, which allowed animals, bacteria and insects to remove any remaining tissue.
WA Museum curator of mammals Kenny Travouillon said the examination showed the jaw only opened about 15cm, and it was thought this was because the mammal sucked in food, mainly deep-diving squid. Test of squid beaks in its stomach failed to determine where it had been feeding and there was no clear cause of death.
Murdoch University’s Nahiiad Stephens said the tests showed low levels of man-made toxins in the liver, and that information would be vital in creating a baseline of data about how pollution affects marine mammals in both the Swan River and ocean.
The skeleton will become part of the WA Museum’s research collection.
Dr Holly Raudino, Dr Nahiid Stephens and Dr Kenny Travouillon exhume the skeleton of a rare whale. d497708