WAM 634, WAM 635, WAM 636 - Pygmy sperm whales (Kogia breviceps)

WAM 634 - Pygmy sperm whale

Dr. Ann Pabst examines the stranded female pygmy
sperm whale

The UNCW stranding team received a page at 08:43 on July 28, 2007 from the Holden Beach Police Department reporting two stranded whales at the southern end of Holden Beach. When the team arrived, they found an adult female pygmy sperm whale (Kogia breviceps) alive at the edge of the Spartina grass. Approximately 50m further down the inlet there was also a small dead pygmy sperm whale calf. Citizens were keeping the adult female whale wet in a shallow pool at the edge of the inlet. The animal was taking low breaths with gurgling from the lungs with nearly each breath. Due to the poor health of the animal, the decision was made to humanely euthanize the whale.

Both animals were transported to UNCW for necropsy. The adult female whale was extremely emaciated. Necropsy revealed that she had wet and congested lungs, her peritoneal cavity was filled with a brown/red muddy fluid, and she had very few gut contents (a small number of squid beaks). The calf was frozen whole for necropsy at a later date.

At 09:04 on the following morning, July 29, 2007, the UNCW stranding team received another report of a stranded whale on Holden Beach. When the team arrived they found a moderately decomposed adult male pygmy sperm whale. It appeared to have been floating dead for at least one day prior to stranding. The whale was transported to UNCW for necropsy. Internal investigation showed that the organs were edematous, the heart was extremely flaccid, and the stomach had a number of squid beaks. Cause of death could not be determined, but additional results from histology are pending.

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