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Rare Record Setting Whale Found Dead on Australian Shore

Oct 15, 2014 06:12 PM EDT
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The corpse of a rarely seen deep-diving whale was recently discovered on the Australian coast.

According to the Australian National Parks Department, the animal likely washed up dead at Redhead Beach in Newcastle earlier this week, and had to be moved as quickly as possible for public health and sanitary reasons.

Still, it was left where it was at least until local experts could take samples for study. That's because this whale was likely a Cuvier's beaked whale, a deep-water whale that is rarely ever seen by human eyes, never mind near a shoreline.

"It is sad but also exciting as we can learn so much more about the animal," Ronny Ling , the president of the Organisation for the Rescue and Research of Cetaceans in Australia, told the Agence France-Presse (AFP).

"We don't know much about them, we rarely get to see them. We have taken samples and measurements and will remove the head and send it to the Australian Museum," he added. "The jaws will be X-rayed and together with DNA it should confirm the species of beaked whale."

And while the immediate dissection of the corpse right where it was found sounds a bit barbaric, National Parks spokesman Lawrence Orel explained to ABC News that this is one of the very few opportunities researchers will ever have to get their hands on a specimen, even considering time constraints.

"Given the rarity of this animal this information is the only source of information we can get on beaked whales," Orel stated. "They're sort of an oceanic species and much of the information that we know about them even today has come from stranded individuals like... this one at Redhead."

What little we do know already about deep-water beaked whales includes the stunning fact that they may be the deepest diving aquatic mammals on record. A study published this year in the journal PLOS ONE detailed how one tagged Cuvier's beaked whale dived to nearly 10,000 feet (2,992 meters) while another stayed underwater for a whopping 137.5 minutes.

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