CJH 007 - Melon-headed Whale (Peponocephala electra)

melon-headed whale

CJH 007 - Melon-headed whale, Bald Head Island, NC

head of whale melon-headed whale

This animal live-stranded on the afternoon of July 23rd, 2006 on Bald Head Island, NC. Interns from the Bald Head Island Conservancy were the first responders and called in the UNCW Marine Mammal Stranding Program for assistance. UNCW stranding volunteers arrived on the scene to find a lethargic melon-headed whale (Peponocephala electra) being supported in the water by Conservancy interns. Due to the dangerous ocean conditions, the whale was moved from the water to the beach on a stretcher by UNCW and Bald Head Island volunteers. The whale's health was monitored on the beach by UNCW stranding program volunteers until a veterinarian could arrive to assess the health of the animal. The whale was a mature male, with numerous healed cookie cutter shark bites, as well as a fresh shark bite on the flukes. There were abrasions on the belly of the animal consistent with live-stranding and rolling on the beach or in the surf. Because the whale was lethargic, breathing erratically, had poor reflex responses and appeared to be generally in very poor health and body condition, the decision was made by the veterinarian to euthanize the whale.

A necropsy was conducted early in the morning on July 24th, 2006 by UNCW Marine Mammal Stranding Program volunteers. There was an adhesion of the lung to the wall of the thoracic cavity. The stomach was empty and there were numerous parasites present in the main stomach and in the abdominal cavity. The lymph nodes appeared active. Cause of the stranding could not be determined, however, numerous tissue samples were collected for virology and histology and those results are pending.


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