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The Marine Mammal Center is a nonprofit veterinary hospital, research, and educational center dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of ill and injured marine mammals and the study of their health. Since 1975, the Center has rescued and treated more than 16,500 marine mammals and has accumulated a body of knowledge about marine mammal and ocean health. Through public education about marine mammals, the Center hopes to foster ocean stewardship and conservation. For more information, visit http://www.marinemammalcenter.org/
Thursday, April 9, 2009
Dead orca found floating near Monterey Bay. Photo credit: TMMC volunteer
Last Sunday a report of an orca (more commonly known as a killer whale) found floating on the rocks near Monterey Bay came into The Marine Mammal Center. Due to weather conditions the carcass was inaccessible until Wednesday, April 8. When news that the orca would be towed to shore came in, the Center's lead veterinarian Dr. Frances Gulland and team along with a team from Moss Landing met at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories to perform a necropsy on the remains. The orca, although partially decomposed, was identified as a female calf weighing approximately 300 kg or about 660 lb. The cause of death remains unknown as does the pod/sub-species origination. While all orcas may bear the same black and white markings, there are actually three distinct sub-species of orcas. Transient orcas, known to swim as far as 250 miles a day travelling in groups of up to 7 individuals; eat other marine mammals and are commonly seen along the western coast. Offshore orcas typically travel in groups of 30-60 individuals, are rarely seen, and eat a diet consisting primarily of fish. Resident orcas, such as the southern (endangered) and northern residents, reside 9 months out of the year in the Pacific Northwest, but have been known to travel as far south as Monterey Bay in search of plentiful salmon runs. While this small calf is an orca, more identification studies will need to be conducted to see which pod she originated from. It is rare to find a dead orca because they typically sink, however, information gathered from the carcass could give whale researchers new insight into toxin levels and other useful information that could otherwise not be gathered. The Marine Mammal Center and other whale researchers hope to learn more about the cause of death and origin of this small calf.
Posted by The Marine Mammal Center at 2:51 PM