April 30, 2016 – EARTH – The following constitutes the latest reports of unusual and symbolic animal behavior, mass die-offs, beaching and stranding of mammals, and the appearance of rare creatures.
Dead Minke whale found on shore at Creevy, Ireland
A dead minke whale washed up on rocks at Creevy Pier between Ballyshannon and Rossnowlagh on Wednesday evening/Thursday morning is attracting interest with increasing numbers of curious visitors arriving on Thursday evening to view the whale.
At approximately 25 to 28 feet in length, it is typical in size for a mature specimen. In general at physical maturity, males and females in the North Atlantic average between 7.9 – 8.17 m (25.9 – 26.8 ft) and 8.42 – 8.5 m (27.6 – 27.9 ft).
It’s reported that there was “a steady stream of people” coming to view the dead whale.
The dead whale was lodged on rocks approximately 50 metres ‘behind’ the pier on the Kildoney side.
At high tide it may well be taken out to sea by the tide but for the moment it has been in the same spot for the best part of a day at high and low tide.
Should it remain on the rocks its disposal will be an issue for the local authority in due course.
The common minke whale or northern minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) is a species of minke whale within the suborder of baleen whales. It is the smallest member of the rorquals and the second smallest species of baleen whale.
Although first ignored by whalers due to its small size and low oil yield, it began to be exploited by various countries beginning in the early 20th century. As other species declined larger numbers of common minke whales were caught, largely for their meat. It is now one of the primary targets of the whaling industry. There is a dwarf form in the Southern Hemisphere.
Arctic narwhal strands on Belgium shore for the first time ever
|Koninklijk Belgisch Instituut voor Natuurwetenschappen|
The last time one of these near-mythical beasts was spotted in western Europe was in 1949 (the same year the Polaroid camera first came to market). The animal’s skeleton will be moved to the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, where it will join the collections as an important natural history specimen.
“This sighting is particularly significant as in the past 14 months we’ve had other Arctic cetaceans visit our waters,” explains Dr Peter Evans, founder of the Sea Watch Foundation, an organisation that works to monitor whales, dolphins and porpoises in the area. “Sea temperatures were unusually low last spring, and [there’s] a possibility that the fragmentation of floating ice may have resulted in whales typically associated with pack ice straying much further south.” One such animal was a beluga whale, the only other species in the family Monodontidae, to which narwhals also belong.
Narwhals (Monodon monoceros) are known to travel in groups of 15 to 20 individuals, so there is some concern among scientists that this carcass won’t be the only one to surface. However, the topology of the North Sea has been known to function as a “whale trap” under certain conditions, and it’s entirely possible that this animal was separated from its pod.
The swirling tusk that gives these pale-coloured porpoises their species name (monoceros is Greek for “unicorn”) is found only in males. The tusk is a modified tooth – the front left canine – which breaks straight through the upper lip as it grows. While the tusk certainly can be used for sparring, researchers have found that nerve endings within it could allow narwhals to “taste” surrounding waters.
Unlike most mammal teeth, narwhal tusks are not protected by enamel. They contain a system of channels and tubes that usher in traces of sea water, which, once inside, excite nerves at the centre of the tooth. It’s thought that this interaction alerts the animal’s brain to any chemical or temperature changes in its environment – a particularly handy trick when searching for food or a mate in the vast Arctic seas.
Though the Belgium narwhal was already in an advanced state of decomposition by the time it was discovered, a necrospy (animal autopsy) has been performed. Determining a cause of death from this state can be tricky, but we’ll be updating you as any information comes to light.