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Marine CSI: Solving the Mysteries of Marine Mammal Strandings

April 1, 2006

A 12-foot Cuviers beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris) found stranded on a beach south of Boston in early April is a rare event in New England, although strandings of pilot whales and other marine mammals are not unusual. In collaboration with the New England Aquarium,  the beaked whale was brought to the new necropsy/CT scanning facility at WHOI for forensic studies to try to determine what may have caused it to strand and die. Preliminary results indicate that this whale suffered from both chronic and acute diseases in several major organs, all of which may have contributed to its weakened state and stranding.  It will be several months before all test results are available and final conclusions are reached. Scientists at the Institution are members of the Cape Cod Stranding Network and often respond to local strandings; they also assist with marine mammal strandings throughout the U.S. and in other countries.