Necropsy Reveals Fate of East Lothian Beached Whale
The humpback whale that was discovered on an East Lothian, Scotland, beach on Tuesday may have been entangled for 'weeks, if not months', according to the experts who conducted a necropsy on the carcass earlier this week.
The body of the 9m-long male was found beached on Tuesday morning at John Muir Country Park, near Tyningham in East Lothian, Scotland. The carcass was moved with the aid of local farmers to a beach where the necropsy could be performed.
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An update posted on the Scottish Marine Animal Strandings Scheme's Facebook page states:
This animal had definitely been entangled in rope for several weeks if not months, based on the scarring evident in the skin and underlying tissue. The rope had cut deep into the blubber layer, in particular around the pectoral fin where this had caused a severe chronic infection. The animal was in poor body condition, thin, with little free lipid in the blubber layer. It also had a very high parasite burden, most notably of spiny-headed worms, in the intestine.
The statement goes on to note that it was most likely that the rope in which the whale had become entangled had probably stopped the animal from feeding normally. Carrying the extra load of the ropes had caused the whale to expend much more energy than would normally be required. Ultimately, as the report notes: 'We found evidence in the lungs that it had eventually drowned, either through exhaustion, or because it became further entangled.'
Dr Andrew Brownlow, the veterinary pathologist for the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme, said in an interview with the BBC that he had found nothing in the whale's stomach. He said: '[The whale's] lesions were very chronic and its parasite burden was the most I have ever seen in an animal of this size. It had become weak because it could not feed which, in turn, meant its immune system weakened, which meant its parasite burden increased, so the poor animal was fighting the ropes and a heavy burden of parasites.'
The whale carcass, the location of which was being withheld prior to the autopsy, has now been cleared from the beach for incineration.