A dead body of a rarely seen deep water whale was washed up on a Massachusetts beach on Friday providing marine biologists with a rare opportunity to study the elusive marine animal.
The carcass was of a 17-foot female Sowerby's beaked whale weighing almost a ton and was found on Jones Beach in Plymouth. The whale, believed to be between 7 and 8 years old, was spotted by Mary Kate McHugh DiLoreto while doing a morning walk on the beach.
"While taking our morning walk on Plymouth Beach this morning, we were amazed to learn that one of the rarest species washed ashore. It is a beaked whale not commonly found in this area," she captioned on the photo she shared on Facebook. "We were told members of the Aquarium were heading down to bring it back to study it. Very cool!"
Biologists from the New England Aquarium now investigate what may have caused the animal to be washed ashore while staffs from the International Fund for Animal Welfare perform a necropsy at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
The carcass of the whale was reportedly in fairly good condition when it was found. Aquarium spokesman Tony Casse said that the body of the dead whale was in fairly fresh condition and that there were no obvious signs of entanglement, trauma from a vessel strike or scars found on the animal.
The Sowerby's beaked whale is characterized by a long and slender snout. They feed on small fish and squid in cold and deep water. Several species of this whale can be found about 200 miles offshore in the North Atlantic with commercial fishermen netting them accidentally at times.
The Beaked whales are also known to be extreme divers. Experts said that this animal is capable of diving thousands of feet. Because the beaked whales spend most of their times in deep water and because of their small number, much is not known about them.
They can also be elusive. The last time that Regina Asmutis-Silvia, from the non-profit Whale and Dolphin Conservation, and fellow aquarium authorities have handled a beaked whale was in 2006.
"They are so rarely seen that New England Aquarium biologists have been conferring to determine the exact species, which they believe to be a Sowerby's beaked whale. Aquarium staff last handled a beaked whale in 2006 in Duxbury," the New England Aquarium said.
Photo: Mary Kate McHugh DiLoreto | Facebook