Whale of tale for sci­en­tists

Canning Gazette - - NEWS -

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.

An­drew Ritchie Pic­ture:

Dr Holly Raudino, Dr Nahiid Stephens and Dr Kenny Travouil­lon ex­hume the skele­ton of a rare whale. d497708

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