A dead sperm whale recently washed up near the Portuguese islands in the North Atlantic with a strange cut on its side, and scientists are baffled. Jorge Fontes and Bruno Macena from the Institute of Marine Sciences discovered the whale carcass in the water on Nov. 18. It was known to researchers and watchers as whale 2470.
Whale Watch Azores frequently saw whale 2470. They posted a photo of the animal on Facebook to announce its passing. The photo shows the strange semi-circular cut on its side and bruising around its head, which is all that scientists have to go on for determining cause of death.
Lisa Steiner, a marine biologist with Whale Watch Azores, told Newsweek that “The origin of the cut is still unknown and unfortunately a necropsy to check for internal damage isn’t possible, since the whale was 45 miles offshore. There was also bruising on the head, which could have been from a collision, but not definitive.”
It’s possible that the animal was struck by a ship and killed, but that is still unknown. While researchers may never confirm cause of death, they do know that it is the first whale to have that strange cut. Between 2001 and 2022, watchers spotted the animal eight times. Newsweek reports that watchers last saw the pod on Sept. 16, 2022.
Blue Whales Consume a Staggering Amount of Microplastics Each Day According to a New Study
In more whale news, a new study from Stanford University has shown that blue whales consume 10 million pieces of microplastics per day. They eat more microplastics than any other species because of their food source: krill. “The krill eat the plastic, and then the whale eats the krill,” said Matthew Savoca, co-author of the study.
But why do blue whales eat the most microplastics? The study found that it all has to do with their location in the ocean. Blue whales usually swim 50 to 250 meters below the ocean’s surface, where microplastics gather and concentrate in the water. In comparison, humpbacks and fins eat fewer microplastics because their daily diets differ.
All the microplastics blue whales eat come from their food and not the massive amounts of seawater they intake. Because humpbacks eat primarily fish, they consume around 200,000 microplastics. Scientists need more research, though, and they are wondering if these animals are getting enough nutrients from their food or if it’s mostly plastic.
“We need more research to understand whether krill that consume microplastics grow less oil-rich and whether fish may be less meaty, less fatty, all due to having eaten microplastics that gives them the idea that they’re full,” said Shirel Kahane-Rapport, the lead study author and Stanford PhD student. These preliminary results are just the first steps to discovering the effects of microplastics on marine life.